Captive insurance programs enable businesses to reduce their
insurance overspend, fully control their coverage, and turn safety initiatives
into profitable returns.
Unfortunately, though, many organizations shy away from
forming or joining captives because, when they start doing online research,
they often run into incorrect and damaging myths about captives.
Moving forward, we’ll:
Identify the top five myths about captive
insurance programs that are prevalent on the web
Debunk each myth using evidence
Describe the true value and possibilities of a
captive insurance program.
Myth #1: You have to be a huge corporation to benefit from a captive
Why is this myth so prevalent?
When you first start researching captive insurance programs,
most of the messaging on the first page of search engine results focuses on how
captive programs are used by large corporations who hold multiple businesses
and operate facilitates across the globe.
Why is this a myth?
It’s true that single-member captives (in which one business
creates its own insurance company) are generally formed by large corporations,
but that’s not the full story! Group insurance captives or “pool” captives
specifically exist to bring together medium-sized businesses so they can gain
the insurance negotiating power of their bigger competition.
When it comes to whether or not your business is a good
candidate to join a group captive, your business’ size, headcount, or profits
don’t enter into the equation at all. It’s all about the scale of your business
The Bottom Line
If you pay more than $150,000 annually in premiums, you are
a strong captive pool candidate. You don’t need to be a multi-national
corporation or a Fortune 500 giant – just a business with a goal of doing
Myth #2: Entering a group or pool captive exposes your business’ health to
other people’s risks
Why is this myth so prevalent?
The idea that group insurance captives expose your money to
other business’ risks is a logical fallacy. That is, it seems right on its
surface when you have a cursory knowledge of the topic, but a deep dive proves
it to be completely false.
When businesses hear the words “group” and “insurance”
together, they incorrectly assume risk and responsibility are shared equally
among the pool members for claims. They connect the dots and assume that if one
pool member has a “bad year,” it damages their business allies as well.
Why is this a myth?
Pool captives are specifically structured to protect the
vast majority of each member’s investment from the risks and claims of others.
Over 90% of your premiums are specifically set aside for your use.
That means less than 10% of your total investment can be
lost due to claims made by other members of your pool.
In fact, in Launchways’ group captive program, each member retains complete ownership of 98% of their funds. This means that with the Launchways group captive, only 2% of your investment is considered “at-risk.”
The Bottom Line
Yes, group captive membership requires the willingness to
take on increased risk compared to the traditional insurance marketplace, but
it’s absolutely false to say that your potential for profits is at the mercy of
your pool partners.
Myth #3: When you’re in a captive, one big claim can blow up your business
Why is this myth so prevalent?
Like Myth #2, the “catastrophic claims scenario” is a
logical fallacy: it sounds right, but it isn’t! When people hear “self-insurance,” they assume
that means “we’re on the hook for every dollar and cent of every potential
Unfortunately, this myth is also sometimes perpetuated by
insurance providers and brokers who are hesitant to work outside the traditional
marketplace. Their motivation is to protect their own interests and ease of
doing work, not yours!
Why is this a myth?
One word: reinsurance. Whether you operate your own
single-member captive or participate in a group or pool program, part of your
investment is always in reinsurance to prevent exactly this scenario.
That reinsurance policy prevents unforeseen or
much-larger-than-expected claims and issues from damaging your business’
long-term viability or standing as a strong group captive partner.
The Bottom Line
Reinsurance is a part of every captive program, and it’s
there to protect you from potentially harming the health of your business.
Myth #4: We’d have to change the way we do business to form or join a
Why is this myth so prevalent?
The idea of creating your own insurance company sounds
pretty daunting at first. Many people assume they’ll need to restructure their
organization to make the captive viable or transform themselves into a more
attractive group pool member.
Like so many other myths we’ve tackled, this one is at least
in part in heavy circulation because many insurance package providers aren’t
crazy about the idea of businesses cutting them out as middlemen.
Why is this a myth?
The whole point of a captive insurance program is that it
allows your business to be itself more fully – you gain the ability to insure
outside-the-box risks, gain ownership over the claims management process, and
reclaim power and autonomy that traditional business insurance limits.
Captive insurance programs aren’t about changing your
business, they’re about changing the circumstances under which you do business.
Furthermore, in the case of group captive programs, independent managers handle
pool responsibilities, meaning there’s minimal change to your day-to-day
operations and responsibilities.
The Bottom Line
A captive is about supporting your business better and
providing greater economy of scale. The idea that you need to significantly
“whip yourself into shape” to be a captive candidate is false.
Myth #5: Captive programs used to offer great perks, but the value isn’t
Why is this myth so prevalent?
Anytime people perceive the value of a product or service
has been reduced even a small fraction, there’s often an impulse to throw out
the baby with the bath water.
Single-member captive programs used to offer large
corporations significant benefit as tax shelters, and it is true that most of
those incentives have been removed. In reactionary style, many of the big business
blogs have published content claiming captives “aren’t what they used to be.”
Why is this a myth?
As we’ve established repeatedly in our myth-busting
exercise, insurance captives aren’t just for the biggest companies in terms of
workforce or economic power. Just because those industry leaders are upset about
changing regulations, doesn’t mean you should be tricked into thinking like
In fact, some of those same regulatory changes that have
made captives slightly less profitable for large, multinational entities have
actually made it easier for medium-sized businesses to form effective
pool captives. Even if captives have slightly declined in value for the biggest
business, they’re still loaded with potential for mid-sized businesses.
The Bottom Line
Captive insurance programs still offer tremendous value:
independence, authentic ownership of your business’ insurance and claims
process, and the potential to make a dividend instead of turning overspend into
loss are just three examples of why they’re still relevant and extremely
useful. Don’t be scared off just because they’re not the big-money tax shelter
they used to be.
As we’ve seen, captive business insurance programs (both
single-member and group or pool) allow organizations to navigate the insurance
market in a more personalized, powerful manner.
Even though most entities aren’t big enough to pull off a
single-member captive, medium-sized businesses are increasingly forming
alliances that provide big value and the potential for profit.
There are plenty of myths out there about captives, most of
them designed to make the programs seem scary and risky, but it’s important to
You don’t need to be a gigantic corporation to qualify for a group or pool captive – you just need to pay at least $150,000 in annual premiums
Within a group insurance captive, over 90% of your investment is protected and sequestered for your use only
Reinsurance is built into captive programs to prevent catastrophic claims events
Captives should be about enabling you to do better, not forcing you to jump through hoops
Even if they’re not spectacular tax shelters anymore, there’s still immense value in the independence and negotiating power captives create
Just about every company these days has a mission, vision,
and set of core values. But all too often, these documents are reviewed once a
year by leadership then filed back away in a drawer. In these cases, they
remain hollow ideals rather than a reality of life at the company. Sometimes
this happens because the company followed the trend without really knowing what
it meant. Other times, businesses want to live their values, they just don’t
know how to realize their values in their business goals and day-to-day
Through our role as HR and benefits consultants, we’ve
gotten to know hundreds of companies over the years who struggle with this exact
challenge. And we’ve had the chance to guide them through the process of
integrating their values into everything that they do, particularly by crafting
values-driven benefits packages and human resources processes.
We’ve seen what works, and we’ve also seen what doesn’t. And
we have also seen how businesses transform and grow when they start realizing
their values in their day-to-day work.
This is one of the best things about being part of the
Launchways team. We’ve taken the lessons we’ve learned from working with our
clients to heart and live our values every day, in every way.
Our values shape who we are as team members, collaborators,
and consultants. They fuel our personal growth and make us invested in the
success of our coworkers, our company, and our clients. And we get the chance
to help our clients live their values and build more productive, engaging, and
Let’s take a look at what it means to live our values at
The Launchways Core Values
How We Make Our Values a Reality of Life at
We’re a community-minded team. We’re always looking for new
ways to support members of our Launchways community while also engaging with
the greater Chicago community.
How We Make Our Values a Reality of Life at Launchways
A values-driven workplace starts from the bottom-up. No
amount of cajoling from the C-Suite can make a company’s values a reality.
Every employee has to buy into the values and make them an intentional part of
how they interact with their work, their coworkers, and their clients. Only
then will a company’s values become a driving force in the company culture.
That said, there is a lot that a company’s leadership can do
to get employees to take ownership of company values. Unsurprisingly, with over
fifteen years of experience consulting with thousands of businesses, Jim knows
a thing or two about how to build a values-driven organization. And he built
Launchways around our core values from the ground up. Every process is shaped
with the company’s values in mind – how and who we hire, how we run our
meetings and share feedback, how we talk to each other across every level of
the Launchways team, and how we are encouraged to grow and advance within the
And it’s worked. Our values are an integral part of what we
do and how we do it. They help us treat each other with honesty and integrity,
encouraging us to be our best and most authentic selves, to genuinely care
about our fellow team members, and to be deeply invested in our clients’
It makes all the difference in the world to go into the
office every day and work alongside friends and peers towards common goals with
a shared vision, mutual respect, and open communication.
Values-Driven Customer Relationships
At Launchways, we know that we do best when our customers
thrive. And our values define every aspect of our relationships with our
customers. We become an extension of our clients’ teams, as invested in their
success as we are in our own.
One of the main expressions of our values-driven approach to
our client relations is our consultative sales model. Essentially, we provide
our clients with solutions rather than products. We never go into a client relationship
with the plan to “sell them” on specific products. Instead, we identify their
needs first and then find the HR technology, benefits, and business insurance
solutions that meet those needs and that help our clients accomplish their business
At Launchways, “out-of-the-box” packages are out of the
question, and it would be anathema to us to suggest that a client adopt a
product if it isn’t the absolute best solution for their business.
This approach doesn’t just deliver better results for our
clients, it also makes our work a lot more rewarding and engaging. We approach
each new client with a fresh perspective, using our skills and experience to
develop unique solutions and solve their specific challenges.
In short, we get to be strategic problem-solvers rather than
succumbing to the uncaring monotony of the hard-sell.
Helping Our Clients Live Their Values
A significant part of living your values is making sure that
the way you treat your employees aligns with your company’s core values. That
means that your benefits and human resources processes need to be aligned with
In our role as benefits and HR consultants, we get to help
our clients align their people-processes with their values. For example, we’ve
helped companies who value employee safety overhaul their workplace safety
practices and we’ve helped companies who value diversity and inclusion
implement more inclusive benefits packages.
Even after we’ve implemented the initial values-oriented
solutions, we continue to help our clients live their values over the long run.
Because we deliver scalable solutions, we build long-term relationships with
our clients. Our clients regularly turn to us as they face different business
or human resources challenges, and we guide them towards the strategies and
solutions that will keep them faithful to their core values.
This is a unique aspect of our client problem-solving that
goes beyond reducing their costs, expanding their benefits, or streamlining
their processes. We don’t just get to help our clients succeed – we empower
them to make sure their employees succeed as well.
If there’s anything we’ve learned from our years of guiding
businesses through the process of maximizing their human potential, it’s the
importance of company values. That is why we live our values in every aspect of
how we work and do business at Launchways. Here’s what living our values looks
like at Launchways:
Putting our values at the center of everything
Developing relationships with our coworkers and
clients that are based on trust and honesty
Delivering meaningful solutions for our clients
through a consultative sales process
Helping our clients live their values by
aligning their benefits and HR processes with their company values
Founded in 1957, The Spice House
is a purveyor of the finest spices, herbs, blends, and extracts to customers
ranging from renowned Michelin-star chefs to home cooks everywhere. They’ve spent
over 60 years curating their global network of premium growers and distributors
to offer their customers unrivaled quality and selection. Spice house is now the fastest-growing craft spice
merchant in the Midwest, thanks to a booming eCommerce business.
Spice House started working with
Launchways during a change of ownership amid a period of rapid growth. When a
Private Equity firm initiated the process of buying Spice House from its
original owners in 2017, they brought on Charlie Mayer as the company’s new
CEO. Immediately upon assessing the business’ processes, Charlie knew that he
had to overhaul the company’s HR systems, payroll operations, and benefits to
accommodate Spice House’s growth and help it grow at an even faster rate.
While he considered working with a
PEO, Charlie decided to work with Launchways instead because we offered customized
solutions with the one-stop-shop appeal of a PEO. Our HR advisors were also
able to provide expert guidance to Charlie and his team through the change in
ownership and guide them through any challenges that arose during Spice House’s
continued growth. And unlike a PEO, we were also able to replace Spice House’s
existing business insurance, which could not meet the needs of a rapidly
expanding eCommerce food industry company.
Because Spice House lacked any
centralized HR systems, Launchways implemented an all-in-one HRMS platform that
handles employee record-keeping, new-hire onboarding, time and attendance, and
payroll using systems that could scale with Spice House’s rapid growth. We also
consolidated employee benefits to a single vendor, made benefits available to
all Spice House employees, and increased coverage for health, dental, vision,
life, and added a 401k at a cost-savings of 16% a year compared to their
previous benefits package.
But one aspect of our partnership that turned out to have an
extremely significant impact on Spice House’s ability to continue to grow and
succeed was our work revamping the company’s business insurance. Their previous
vendor refused to renew the company’s coverage due to the change of ownership
and rapid expansion, so Spice House needed a business insurance solution that
would meet their current and future needs. Our insurance experts conducted an
audit of the business and put together comprehensive and cost-effective
coverage package that could scale as the company grew.
Little did anybody know how important that coverage would
become to Spice House’s future just two years later.
In early July 2019, a repairman sent by Spice House’s
landlord to fix the store’s roof accidentally lit the roof on fire with a
blowtorch. The response by the fire department was swift and effective but it
wasn’t enough to save the company’s inventory as Charlie reports,
“The fire department put the fire out quickly but they used a lot of water, so everything on the floor and in the basement was ruined.”
But the damage to the building was an even greater risk to
his company’s ability to stay open, let alone expand. If he hadn’t had
comprehensive business insurance, that Spice House location might have been
driven out of business. But the coverage that Launchways had previously negotiated
ensured that Spice House could weather the fire damage,
“In addition to having a significant loss in terms of our building and our product, we were closed for four months. Because we had business interruption insurance we not only recovered our lost income but we were also able to keep our staff employed through the interruption.”
One reason why the store was closed for so long was the
complexity involved in resolving the claim. Since the fire was started by a
contractor hired by the landlord, Spice House had to navigate shifting
liability between multiple parties.
The landlord had to get the contractor to pay for the damage
to the building before they could begin repairing the damage, greatly
increasing the amount of time that Spice House’s store was closed. At the same
time, Spice House’s initial insurance adjuster worked extremely slowly and was
eventually fired by the insurance company. Launchways worked diligently to get
a new adjuster on the case immediately, and then worked hand-in-hand with that
party to ensure the claim was paid out quickly.
Throughout the process, the Launchways team handled the
communications between the different parties and insurance companies so that
Spice House could focus on their business, as Tim Taylor, the head of the
Launchways business insurance team, explained:
“Because the fire was caused by a third-party roofing company that was fixing the roof, we had to work with not only the landlord and the roofing insurance company but also our insurer. When there is a large claim like this, we check in twice a week with the end adjuster at our insurance company and also check in with our insured to make sure that they don’t have any questions, that they know the timeline, and that they know when they can expect the money to be paid out for this type of a loss.”
Launchways’ hands-on approach made all the difference for
Charlie, making a stressful and potentially costly process as easy and
productive as possible,
“Having Launchways to talk to is kind of like having an older sibling who’s been there before and can tell you what to expect. About once a week I would get on the phone with Tim and say okay, here’s what’s going on, is this normal, should we expect more, what can I do? And he would tell me what to do and occasionally take it upon himself to go figure out what was broken and get it fixed.”
With Launchways handling communications with the insurers,
landlord, and contractor, Charlie was able to focus on rebuilding Spice House’s
store better than ever.
“I’ll never say that having a fire is a good thing but in the end, it was an opportunity to think about the store we wanted to have and to build that store. We had that opportunity because we had the right team together to help us recover and help us think about rebuilding. Tim gave us the confidence we needed to just proceed. When the process finally started to click, the fact that we had everything ready to go made it all work.”
Now, Spice House is stronger than ever with a new storefront
that fits their brand and is helping them grow even faster. This challenging
chapter ended up fueling their business because they had the proper coverage
and an active partner and consultant in Launchways. It’s rare for a company’s
business insurance coverage to be put to the test as Spice House’s has been and
Charlie is more than pleased with the results. Going forward, he can run his
business with more confidence than ever, knowing that Spice House can withstand
anything that fate sends its way,
“I just don’t lose sleep about insurance because you just need someone who understands the process who will talk to you honestly about what to do and that’s what Launchways did for us.”
A new employee’s first days and weeks of work are a crucial time. Their early impressions of the organizational structure, leadership, climate, and culture of their new environment will directly affect the way in which they approach work in the coming months and years.
On the other hand, when incoming talent is thrown into the fire or not provided the education they need to hit the ground running, it significantly lowers productivity, both for the confused, under-served new-hire and their teammates, who must constantly take time out of their own work hours to triage knowledge and skill gaps.
Preventing those hang-ups is one of HR’s main responsibilities. With a proactive, straightforward, integrated approach to onboarding, you can ensure that creating a great experience for your new hires doesn’t come at the expense of your current team’s productivity.
Moving forward, we’ll explore:
The true scope and definition of onboarding
How HR, IT, and each department or team within an organization can support great onboarding
Five things all organizations need to do to get onboarding right
What is Onboarding, Really?
In an HR context, onboarding is the process through which new hires gain the knowledge, skills, tools, strategies, and motivation they need to become great team members and productive employees.
That’s actually good news for HR professionals, as it helps focus on what most of us are really passionate about: setting people up for success.
Let’s break down that onboarding definition and look at each individual element with an eye toward what a strong procedure can truly accomplish.
Knowledge Transfer Requirements for New Employees
Your hires need all sorts of knowledge in order to thrive in their new roles. They already have most of the functional understanding they need – that’s why you hired them – but you need to teach them your specific expectations for success.
Incoming talent likely has a track record of success on some level, but that doesn’t mean every one of them knows how to complete day-to-day tasks in the specific way your team prefers. Ensuring your new-hires hit the ground running in a positive, productive manner means identifying and mitigating skill gaps as quickly as possible.
The skills you need to reinforce with your new hires will vary depending on the role and each professional’s existing skillset, but it’s best to have plans in place to address issues like:
Skill assessments for incoming talent to gauge education needs
Tutorials and lessons on relevant work software/ERPs/etc.
Leadership coaching for new or emerging managers
Specific device training for technicians
Guidance on professional communication
Tool Acquisition for New Employees
Connecting your new employees with the physical tools they need to do great work is just as important as equipping them with the right knowledge and mindset.
Knowing what each new-hire needs requires a deep understanding of your organizational chart and proactive communication across a number of departments.
For each team member you welcome into the fold, you need to determine and fulfill their needs as quickly as possible, including:
Access credentials and digital accounts for relevant software/systems (email, salesforce, or github etc.)
Work computers (desktop, laptop, etc.)
Company mobile devices (cell phones, tablets, etc.)
Device accessories (keyboards, chargers, etc.)
Traditional office supplies (Pens, folders, etc.)
Strategy Development for New Employees
At some point in their careers, your new employees are going to run into problems. Maybe they’ll have a life-changing event that necessitates an insurance change. Maybe they’ll have an issue with a co-worker that requires mediation, the list goes on and on.
You can greatly reduce anxiety for your team members and set them up for instant success by identifying as many of those common problems and frequently asked questions and proactively addressing them with new hires.
HR can support talent immediately and improve their overall experience by helping them develop strategies for:
Addressing problems with colleagues or supervisors
Reporting facilities or maintenance-related issues
Connecting with IT support
Discussing performance, goals, and progress
Communicating across departments
Building Motivation for New Employees
Knowledge transfer, skill building, tool acquisition, and strategy development are the four most important onboarding considerations when it comes to delivering a new employee who is ready to do a great job and become a fully integrated member of your team and culture.
Frameworks and structures for bonuses, raises, equity options, etc.
Introduction to the value of day-to-day perks and employee culture initiatives
Opportunities to interact with and receive mentorship from standout talent
Education on company success stories, exciting innovations, and other news
Onboarding as a Whole-Company Responsibility
When you look at the scope of what’s been laid out, it’s apparent that no HR professional or department can build a great onboarding process in isolation. Integrating and empowering new team members as quickly as possible must be an organization-wide value and priority in order to harness onboarding for talent maximization.
During any onboarding process, IT should be one of your closest allies. They provide the functional tools and support that complement the great job your department does preparing new hires to become great employees.
The better the integration between their work efforts, the faster and easier it is to provide comprehensive onboarding and create a new talent orientation that sets everybody up for success.
At the same time, coming to the table to discuss and address onboarding needs together fosters collaborative problem-solving between different teams and departments who might otherwise not interact with each other. That whole-company understanding of supporting and managing talent helps create a strong organization from top to bottom.
Top 5 Employee Onboarding Musts
You Must Work Together with Your Colleagues
As we just detailed above, no business can onboard talent effectively if any individual or single department is responsible for the whole process.
If your HR department is feeling crushed under the weight of onboarding responsibilities, it’s crucial to reach out to your colleagues and advocate for the support you need to improve engagement and results across the organization. Tell your leaders what you really need from them to do an excellent job.
If you’re not getting the support you need from IT or some other department, find a way to address the issue, either by connecting with tools that allow your HR team to take on traditional IT tasks or by building integration and closer communication between your teams.
2. You Must Ensure Each Member of Your Team is Fully Accountable
When your onboarding process is complete, every single new hire should know which responsibilities, requirements, policies, and procedures are relevant to them. Without that backbone of accountability, it’s impossible to manage talent proactively or demonstrate how your department is creating a safe, productive workplace.
Of course, it’s not just important for employees to know the rules and policies; it’s crucial that there is a secure, high-integrity documentation trail backing up that work. That way, if issues do arise, there are vetted and agreed upon mechanisms in place for dealing with the issues.
If your onboarding procedure doesn’t empower your HR department and leadership team to manage, discipline, and hold new-hires accountable for their actions and performance, it’s time for a redesign with accountability in mind.
3. You Must Help Your Hires Make the Best Benefits Elections
Employee benefits overspend is a profitability killer, and as an HR department, preventing it should be one of your top priorities.
New hires need support in order to understand what your company’s benefits offerings really mean and which ones are the ideal fit for their situation. That means you need to provide them with whatever education and clarification they require to get the coverage they need without selecting something that will create excess costs for themselves or the company.
Part of that puzzle is connecting them with the right materials they need (your benefits broker should be a major help in this effort), but it’s equally important that your enrollment and benefits selection interface is clear, easy-to-use, and designed to answer user questions and prevent confusion.
4. You Must Offer Each Team Member a Workspace That’s Uniquely Theirs
Nobody wants to feel like they inherited the last employee’s setup – it’s a buy-in and motivation killer. Your onboarding process should be standardized in a way that makes things easy for your HR, IT, and other onboarding support professionals but also personalized in a way that truly welcomes each employee to the team.
When new employee onboarding feels tailored to a hire’s needs without stretching or inconveniencing any members of your team, you know you’ve built something inspirational and effective for everyone.
5. You Must Make Onboarding Powerful but Easy
This is a theme we’ve come back to time and time again: onboarding should be easy. It must be straightforward in a way that protects the productivity of your core team, and it must feel approachable and engaging in a way that builds buy-in with your new talent.
With that said, that ease of experience can’t come from cutting corners or procrastinating. To work well, your onboarding process must be comprehensive, well-organized, and backed by professionals across your organization. Otherwise, you’re just creating more backlogged work and compromising your opportunity for workforce maximization.
Creating something that balances that flexibility and robust support can seem like a major challenge, but there’s a variety of emerging employee onboarding software providers stepping up to help companies understand how they can streamline and integrate this work.
We’ve taken a broad look at onboarding to explore its goals, responsibilities, and a few strategies and guiding lights you can use to improve your approach. While it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the weight of the responsibility of onboarding, it’s important to understand that, once you have effective onboarding processes running, it’s much easier to manage current talent and anticipate future needs.
Getting onboarding right strengthens a company from top to bottom
Onboarding can’t just be HR’s responsibility – it’s a team-wide responsibility of which HR should be the hub
A successful onboarding process ensures each new employee is ready to be a fully productive member of the team in terms of capability, accountability, and cultural fit
It’s important to engage and support new hires by making onboarding personalized, easy, and well-supported
How to Learn More
Rippling is revolutionizing the onboarding process by helping HR professionals support their new hires better than ever.
By integrating all aspects of the onboarding process into a single digital platform, Rippling accelerates the new employee orientation experience, connecting hires with the tools, coverage, and credentials they need with a minimal number of clicks.
To learn more about how Rippling can smooth the employee onboarding process at your business and create a new way of managing HR and IT responsibilities, contact them today.
Captive insurance programs have been popular among business’
largest corporations since they were first created in the 1950s. As we enter
2020, however, captives are enjoying a resurgence as a growing solution for
businesses of all sizes trying to think outside the box.
Captives allow businesses to maintain direct control of
their insurance programs, creating a fully personalized experience with its own
unique challenges and opportunities for reward.
Even though captive insurance programs can help businesses
navigate the challenges of employee benefits management, reduce costs, and
build a more useful experience for employees, there’s a major lack of
understanding about what they are and how they work.
Moving forward, we will:
Define captive insurance for beginners
Explain the difference between a captive and
traditional commercial insurance
Review the main pros and cons of captive
Provide guidelines to help determine if a
captive insurance program might be right for your business
What is Captive Insurance?
A “captive” insurance company is an organization that exists
only to meet the specific insurance needs of its member/owners. That means the
business or businesses insured by the captive are its sole and total owners.
Captive insurance can help a business fulfill all its
insurance needs, from employee benefits and general business insurance to worker’s
compensation, product liability, auto insurance, and so on. That’s why captives
have historically been popular with Fortune 500 companies and major
corporations: they provide complete independence and allow businesses to
circumvent many of the inefficiencies of the commercial insurance market.
When you have an insurance company whose only focus is the
support of your business, you can achieve some pretty impressive stuff.
You can get your employees the benefits plans
they need while controlling expense for them and the business
You can scale your coverage to your exact needs
to minimize overspend
You can eliminate the offerings you don’t need
while finding the best version of what you do need
In order to gain that independence, however, you must assume
the possibility of greater financial risk. When you make the switch to captive
insurance, you’re gambling with your own money, and no longer have your insurance
provider to fall back on because you are now the provider.
Different Types of Captive Insurance
It’s important to know that there’s more than one kind of
captive. Let’s take just a minute to define the main types of captive insurance
programs out there.
Single-Parent or Pure Captive: A captive
that is owned by and works exclusively for its parent company and its
subsidiaries (as for a corporation)
Group or Association Captive: A captive
insurance program created by multiple small or medium-sized companies pooling
their resources and risk to access the advantages of a captive
Rental Captive: An existing, independent
captive operated by a business entity that other organizations can opt into
Protected Cell Captive: A captive in
which each organization’s assets and liabilities are kept separate, allowing
access into the captive but minimizing the biggest possible financial gains and
Agency Captive: A captive managed by a
specific agent, who is empowered to reinsure the company by contracting with
traditional carriers based on their assessments
How is Captive Insurance Different from Commercial Insurance?
Now that we’ve defined “captive,” let’s explore how captive
insurance is different from many of the other models you might be familiar
What’s the Difference Between Captive Insurance and Being Fully Insured?
In short, a captive is the complete opposite of being fully
When you’re fully insured, you pay a set monthly fee to your
insurance company and they assume all financial risk. Being fully insured is most
useful if you don’t have the capital available to cover anticipatable risks.
A captive is only possible if your business has more than
enough capital available to cover anticipatable risks or if you partner with
other organizations to pool resources.
What’s the Difference Between Captive Insurance and Being Self Insured?
Captive insurance is a form of self-insurance, but the two
terms are not interchangeable.
A self-insured business maintains a specific savings account
for unforeseen insurance costs and uses that “rainy day fund” to cover losses
or fill gaps in coverage. However, that coverage is still purchased through the
traditional insurance marketplace.
A captive is far more complex than basic self-insurance because
it involves an organization creating its own insurance entity, not simply socking
away money to pay for insurance-related costs.
What’s the Difference Between Captive Insurance and Mutual Insurance?
In a mutual insurance company, the provider is owned by its
policyholders, acts on their collective best interests, and distributes any
profit through either lower rates or payouts.
That sounds pretty similar to captive at first, but there’s
one key difference: a mutual company, although owned by its policyholders
financially, acts as an independent entity. Policyholders buy in and then trust
the provider to do good by them.
In a captive, the insurance company is part and parcel of
the greater organization which it serves and is steered according to identified
Advantages of Captive Insurance
We’ve laid out a lot of information about what captive
insurance programs are, how they work, and how they can transform an
organization’s approach and identity. Let’s pause to reflect on the positive
potential of captives.
A captive insurance program can help you:
insurance costs – When you own the insurance company, there’s no mark-up
for services and no need to purchase any coverage you don’t want or need.
Captives offer businesses the best and most granular control over their costs
compared to any other insurance model.
yourself for good planning – Captives provide the most benefit to
businesses with great self-knowledge. If you understand your assets, risks,
needs, and scale well, you can create a captive that protects you with minimal
overspend in a bad year and generates difference-making profit in a good year.
ideal employee benefit packages – Each workforce has its own specific,
identifiable healthcare and employee benefit needs. Unfortunately, even with a
great broker, it’s tough to create bespoke coverage that meets everybody’s
needs and saves everybody money. A captive allows businesses to get creative
and find new ways to get their employees exactly what they need without having
to spend a dime on things they don’t.
outside-the-box risks – Sometimes an organization needs to take a big risk
and gamble on itself to take the next step. Finding insurance to protect
investors and keep the core of the business whole should one of those major
strategic gambles fail is more difficult than ever on the open market. If you
have a captive insurance program, however, you can create whatever coverage you
need and avoid needing to “sell” a carrier on your business plan.
tax benefits – There’s a misconception that all the tax benefits of captive
programs have been eliminated over the last few years, but that’s actually not
true. First of all, all premiums an organization pays to its own captives are
tax deductible. Furthermore, in down years, he captive’s status as an insurance
company can earn its parent organization loss reserve deductions.
Disadvantages of Captive Insurance
Of course, as we’ve seen, the captive program approach isn’t
right for every business. Let’s pause briefly and reinforce the main reasons
and organization would not want to create a captive.
Unfortunately, with a captive insurance program, you:
Assume increased risk – When you form a
captive program, you are your own support system. There’s nobody else paying
into the pool of funds that’s used to bail you out in a pure captive, and even
in a group captive, if multiple partners have bad years, it can lead to major
financial complications. If your business is risk-averse by nature, a captive
might not be right for you.
on up-front expense – Establishing a captive is a time-consuming process
that requires creating an insurance company from scratch.That means, as
you’re planning and building your program, you’ll need to take on more hires,
acquire new licenses, and bring in some consultants who are captive experts. At
the same time, you need to allocate capital to underwrite your plans.
Create new management responsibilities – People
sometimes misunderstand that a captive can be managed by a human resources
department’s employee benefit expert. That’s actually not true, as the captive
is a full-time, constantly operational insurance company. That means either
bringing in new managers to operate the division or creating new
responsibilities for other members of your core team.
Risk taking a step back –It’s possible
that, in its initial years, your captive might not do as good of a job as a
traditional provider. If you’re not comfortable taking one step back to take
two steps forward, a captive probably doesn’t fit your leadership style.
get the tax benefits you would have in the past – While captives still
deliver some tax perks, they’re definitely not the shelter and deduction
powerhouses they used to be. With that said, if your main motivation for
creating a captive is tax protection, you’re likely not a good candidate for a
captive program in the first place.
How to Know if Captive Insurance is Right for You
In general, captive insurance is best for businesses that
Large and stable (or medium-sized and stable,
backed by a group of similarly stable partners)
Comfortable taking risks with the potential for
Thinking and operating in an open-ended,
Recruiting a diverse workforce with varied
medical needs and preferences
Dissatisfied with traditional corporate and
Confident in their ability to improve over time
On the other hand, businesses should keep away from captives
if they are:
Small or in an early developmental stage
Risk averse or unable to raise significant
Relying exclusively on outside companies and
contractors to identify and manage their insurance needs
Completely satisfied with the pricing and
coverage they get through traditional insurers
Unwilling to take one step back in the short
term in order to take many steps forward in the long term
Captive insurance programs are unique, complex, and create
brand new challenges for the businesses who decide to leverage them.
At the same time, however, captives remain underappreciated
as ways to meet all of your business’ total insurance needs while controlling
costs and connecting with your ideal coverage.
There’s no “right answer” when it comes to whether captive
insurance programs are effective or not; the approach’s potential for success
is directly tied to an organization’s desire to think and work beyond the
limitations of the traditional marketplace and commitment to getting things
If you’re wondering if a captive program could benefit your
Captive insurance companies support only the
organizations that own them
A “pure” captive involves just one company or
A “group” or “association” captive involves a
group of businesses banding together to share risk and support one another
Starting a captive insurance program is
basically the opposite of being fully insured – you assume all risk
Captives can help organizations build bespoke
insurance plans, both for business needs and employee benefits
Captives aren’t for small or risk-averse