Does Anyone Know About Captive Insurance?

December 1st, 2020 by Potato

As the title states, this is a question to all the smart BbtP readers out there — does anyone know much about captive insurance companies?

I came across the concept when looking into how a certain popular be-all robo-advisor was offering people a way to buy bitcoin. Now, without going on too much of a rant, bitcoin is stupid in large part because it’s stupidly hard to get and keep. There are huge barriers to entry to regular people, but it’s going up and people want to buy, so there are a whole host of businesses springing up to serve that market. There are companies that are buying bitcoin on their balance sheet1, trusts that simply serve as publicly-traded securities that hold bitcoin, as well as a bunch of brokerage/exchange type services that range in professionalism from a group of basement-dwelling hackers cosplaying as investment bankers to groups with actual infrastructure and legal agreements.

There’s a huge trust problem with bitcoin (or crypto in general) — if you lose your keys, or get hacked, your coins are gone. If you die and forget to give your heirs the key (or let them know the coins exist in the first place), they’re lost forever. If you let someone else hold your coins and they get hacked (or fake their death and abscond with the money or whatever else might happen), then they’re gone, with no regulator to cry to reverse the transaction. For the most part, people don’t seem too worried about this — it’s a mania after all, you can’t sit around when there’s buying to do! As far as I’m aware, all of the more-convenient ways to access bitcoin trade at a premium, indicating that people want the convenience and are willing to pay for it (or can’t arbitrage it away).

So I checked out that be-all robo to see what all the fuss was about. And while bitcoin isn’t covered by CIPF, they say they’re insured. So if you click through the fine print, they’re using the services of an American company specializing in being a custodian and exchange for crypto. And they have a Bermuda-based captive insurer providing $200M of coverage, and that sounded weird to me. I don’t really know how captive insurers work — I could do a search and see that it’s when the insurer is wholly owned by the company taking out the insurance, which explains the name. But I don’t know how to answer the main question: do they actually have $200M in assets to backstop that insurance policy (or sufficient re-insurance)? Is there a Bermuda-based regulatory filing database like SEDAR?

Hopefully one of you knows.

1. I fully expect Tesla to announce they’re doing that or have been doing it all along and that’s the explanation for the interest income anomaly.

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