Fro (as he prefers) is Co-Founder and CEO of Beam Dental, a revolutionary company in the dental insurance industry, based in Columbus, Ohio, offering employers a fundamentally unique approach to pricing, coverage and care. Fro was interviewed by Michael Fiedel, a Community Leader at InsurTech Ohio and Partner at PolicyFly, Inc.
Fro, how are newcomers into the insurance industry like Beam challenging the status quo?
“I think what newcomers to the industry are successfully challenging is not just the status quo in its traditional sense, but they’re bringing a different expertise to the table and therefore a different angle to the industry altogether. It’s particularly this innovation in strategy that is allowing emerging technologies to flourish.
So I think about the Internet of Things (IOT) or machine learning in the context of underwriting and risk. In that it’s not just emerging technologies, but it’s also emerging business designs and process implementation.
I think these newcomers also have a digital first approach that offers a major competitive advantage. For instance, there are probably very few legacy carriers using Slack for company communications, just as an easy example, but I bet the average insurtech company is using Slack. And while that may not be a business strategy in and of itself, when you add this digital first approach and a tech stack of these types of digital tools, in aggregate, they do create a competitive advantage in the form of a more efficient, more communicative, more nimble, more experimental and more compact version of the large legacy carriers.”
How does your vision for Beam drive value for the customer?
“When we talk about our vision at Beam, we say that it is to revolutionize dental care and coverage.
We’re not here to make incremental progress on the industry or build something of value relative to what’s been done previously. We basically want to flip this entire thing on its head. We wake up every day getting a little bit closer to representing a better approach for the dental insurance industry.
And then the second thing I’ll point to is our notion of coverage and care.
We don’t view our job as just being an insurance company, if we did we would just stop at coverage. Or we might even say the word insurance, if we thought it was just about building a superior set of dental plans or having a better way of risk profiling. We have some very unique differentiators as a company that go beyond just delivering an insurance experience like our Beam Perks program, where we use connected electric toothbrushes to underwrite policies, which provides premium discounting at renewal for all of our members. This electric toothbrush is a product that has an effect on pricing and underwriting, but it isn’t an insurance product.
This speaks to our vision around people. The people that build and deliver that product have expertise in manufacturing, electronics, mechanics and plastics. They have actually no orientation at all to insurance. So the fact that we are already thinking of ourselves broader than “just an insurance company” is a really critical piece to the type of company we envision having both now and into the future.”
As engineers by trade, what drove you and your co-founders to revolutionize the dental insurance industry?
“Dental is actually a relatively small line of insurance at a mere $75 billion, but in the grand scheme of things, that’s a gigantic market.
Dental is always what I call a ‘little brother’ product in the business. It’s never the biggest line of coverage that a company offers. That tends to be the life product or the major medical product. So dental doesn’t receive a proportionate amount of attention, resources, talent, and investment from the business because it’s not their concentration, it’s not their bread and butter.
So what I really love about Beam and the financial opportunity is what would happen if a company did wake up every day focused on just building the best in class, next generation dental insurance company? And that’s what we do.
Our relentless focus on that specific topic is what I think makes us so excited about the market opportunity broadly and also our place in the competitive spectrum.”
Why has the Internet of Things proven to be such a formidable opportunity for new entrants?
“IOT is certainly one of our key inspirations when we were started Beam and the opportunity is still massive and almost completely untapped.
With the falling cost of both sensors and manufacturing there is an increasing ability for companies to create large pools of risk relevant data in a structured way. There is a growing contingent of companies who are digital first in the insurance market that can take that data once it’s created, whether created by themselves or not, and deliver insights around it that have never been seen before. This is driving new business models.
So the things that have made it classically difficult for IOT to play into the insurance environment, revolve around the idea that even if you could collect all of the data and even if you could construct the platform to gain insight from that data, the insurance companies sitting on the other side of the equation didn’t have the technology themselves to take that data and insights, and do anything of business value with it.
But now we see the maturation of companies like Beam that are offering both ends of the equation. We build our own IOT products like the brushes and we ingest our own data, which is based directly on our policyholders. We ingest it and we build it into our underwriting models and connect it with our claims experience data. By providing an end-to-end solution we’re able to deliver value that legacy companies were unable to before.”
What further value does the future of IOT offer the industry and the end consumer?
“One is you’re going to see more products improve their sharpness and their personalization and their fidelity because of the additional layer of data being created.
And then the second thing you’ll see are entirely new types of insurance itself emerged from the data. Previously you as the consumer would just insure your house against major catastrophic events, like a fire, but what if sensors were so cheap, you could put one on every single window in your house and that granularity could allow you to insure your house window-by-window? Is there a window more susceptible to a break in? Or a baseball hitting it? Unconscionable just a few years ago, but now we have the computing power, the sensors, and maybe now the insurtech companies that can actually do something strategic and customer first with all this data being created.”