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Benefits captives face data challenges

Posted On: Feb. 2, 2017 9:07 AM CST

BOCA RATON, Fla. — Data plays a crucial role in determining whether to cover benefits risks in a captive, but it can be tough to obtain, captive experts say.

Risk managers and captive managers seeking details on employees as they build captive feasibility studies to create a benefits captive, or add benefits to an existing captive, often run into privacy concerns, said Kathleen Anne Waslov, senior vice president in the global captive practice of Willis Towers Watson P.L.C. in Boston.

“The feasibility study’s purpose is to demonstrate the value of the captive and … the first thing you want to do is identify the risk, and here’s where many of these studies stop when you are looking at benefits data,” she said during a session at the 26th annual World Captive Forum, held in Boca Raton, Florida, earlier this week.

To assess benefits risk, a feasibility study needs to examine plan design, the ages of the employees covered and their salaries, among other things, she said. “You are starting to ask for a lot of personal data and sometimes, in some places, there’s a reluctance to put that forward. There’s still a sense of data privacy when it comes to employee data,” Ms. Waslov said.

In addition, existing insurers are often reluctant to give details of the history of the performance of the benefit plans, including premiums paid and losses incurred, she said. While it’s easier to get benefits data in the United States, data on international benefits risks, which are often included in benefits captives, is more difficult to obtain, Ms. Waslov said.

For international risks, insurers reinsuring the captive can help supply other data, which can help with pricing risk, said Vittorio Zaniboni, Brussels-based chief technical officer at Generali Employee Benefits, a unit of Italian insurer Assicurazioni Generali S.p.A.

Insurers can provide local underwriting know-how and information on how product design affects pricing in individual markets, he said.

“In my view, our role needs to go further than that and is based on reporting and organizing data so that the client can be put in the best place to make an informed decision,” Mr. Zaniboni said.

Insurers supporting captives need to provide data analytics and predictive tools to help captive owners and captive managers, he said.