By continuing to access our website, you agree to our privacy policy and use of cookies.

Skip to Main Content

Press "Enter" to search


Finding the Domicile That Best Fits Your Captive

April 26, 2024

This article originally was published on and is reprinted here with permission.

It may seem strange to compare a sophisticated risk management tool to a new pair of shoes, but there are some real parallels between choosing the right captive domicile for an organization and wandering through a shoe store in search of the perfect pair.

You know you’ll own those shoes for a while, so you want to invest the time to ensure they’ll be completely comfortable over the hundreds of miles you’ll walk in them. Do they go on easily, or do they require extra work? Do they stretch to meet the varied needs of days in the office or racing to get to your gate at the airport? Will they help you navigate uneven or unexpected surfaces? Will they make or break your outfit?

Just as you wouldn’t walk out of the shoe store with the first pair you spotted, a company shouldn’t choose a domicile without a thorough evaluation of all the financial, strategic, and operational elements that may affect your organization.

Those interested in establishing captives have an ever-increasing number of domiciles to choose from. There are roughly 70 choices worldwide, about half of which are in U.S. states. Some domiciles, like Vermont, have long been home to the captive industry and continue to update legislation to meet the changing needs of the insurance marketplace. Newer domicile arrivals see the economic benefits of enacting captive legislation through licensing fees, premium tax revenues, and potential tourism dollars.

Because no two domiciles offer identical mixes of requirements, regulations, and other factors, the starting point is a comprehensive comparison analysis built around the organization’s goals and objectives. When a captive consultant conducts a domicile analysis for clients, they begin by looking at the organization’s business structure, specifically the nature of its current operations and exposures, while being mindful of the company’s growth strategy and how it could affect the proposed captive.

For example, the organization might be a manufacturer based in a U.S. state, performing most of its business activity domestically while also maintaining significant manufacturing activities in non-U.S. markets. Depending upon the company specifics, they might discuss a non-U.S. domicile.

The next step is examining the financial considerations associated with the choice of domicile to ensure it’s in line with both the organization’s expectations and comparable to similar domiciles. The financial considerations include all capital and surplus requirements, flexibility with investment portfolios, premium taxation, income tax, excise tax, costs to operate in the domicile, fees, and travel for board meetings. Certain domiciles in the EU are subject to Solvency II regulation; thus the costs of establishing and maintaining captives there may be significantly higher for some organizations compared to their U.S. equivalents. For example, if you’re U.S.-based and don’t operate globally, legislative improvements to U.S. captives have erased many of the one-time advantages of making an offshore domicile choice.

The strategic piece of the process focuses on the nature and philosophy of the domicile’s attitudes toward captives. Is the domicile new to captive regulation? What is its reputation amongst the captive industry? Does it have a significant experience with captives in your industry? How long will it take to get a license? Do its regulators provide an easy runway for adding new lines of business to a captive? And just how stable is the regulatory environment itself?

Operational considerations include more about the nature of the domicile, as well as practical matters. How often does it conduct examinations, and how does it go about the process? Is it easy to file financials? Will it work with you from a distance, or do you need a resident director physically in domicile? Are there unique accounting requirements outside of standard accounting practices? Does the domicile support expanded and optimization of the captive with business plan changes approved in a timely manner? Is there an in-domicile annual meeting mandate? Your tax and legal counsel need to be part of these conversations, too.

That last issue is frequently a major consideration. While it may be tempting to choose a domicile requiring in-person meetings because it justifies regular travel to a sunny or scenic locale, keep in mind that you’re locking your organization into having to do that year after year. Based on the captive consultant's evaluation, the domicile that is the best fit for your company may not match your desired travel destinations due to the financial, operational and strategic results.

Finally, as with shoe shopping, should you decide you purchased the wrong pair of shoes, you can always exchange them for another. Similarly, you can later decide to change the domicile for your captive through a process called re-domestication. Most of the time, that process isn’t particularly complex, but it does involve cost, time, and other hassles you’d probably prefer to avoid. Better to invest the time and effort into making the right choice up front!

The above information does not constitute advice. Always contact your insurance broker or trusted advisor for insurance-related questions.

Authored by

Claire Richardson

Claire Richardson

Captive Consultant

Claire leads feasibility studies, performs domicile analyses and conducts client-specific data analyses for businesses of all sizes and in all industries, helping them assess the potential benefits of alternative risk transfer solutions.

Related Insights