Insurance is often misunderstood. For J. Marshall Dye, the Founder and CEO of Insurance Applications Group (IAG), reshaping the insurance industry and how it relates to the fair treatment of employees through genuinely useful benefits became his life’s passion. Dye noticed the need for improved, innovative insurance products and services early in his career.
“One of my first jobs was working on an enrollment team that implemented a textile mill in South Carolina, and I realized during that process that these workers were wonderful people who were historically taken advantage of by unscrupulous promoters of insurance products,” he remembers. “These were genuine people who needed to be protected and supported.”
Being the third generation of his family to enter the insurance field, Dye harvested an appreciation for how traditional insurance plans can positively impact people’s lives while simultaneously filling the gaps of what the industry lacks and how it lags behind the curve of technology.
“It’s an odd industry to be so proud to be a part of, but I am because I see how it so positively impacts people,” Dye tells California Business Journal. “I want IAG to be thought of as an innovating, problem-solving company that helped millions of people. I want to make their lives easier.”
The turning point for Dye, which motivated him to create an ethical, forward-thinking insurance company with IAG, was a single conversation that would change the course of his career. When learning from a cavalier CEO about the pricing and the design of that company’s products, Dye realized that honest, dedicated employees were not being offered the quality of insurance coverage they deserved. Rather, the CEO and his company were taking advantage of hourly employees with what Dye refers to as “illusionary benefits.”
“I hung up the phone and made a vow to myself that I was going to start IAG. That was the spark,” Dye says. “It was more like a lightning bolt because it enraged me that hourly wage people were being taken advantage of.”
It’s challenging to shift the norms of what is a historically stable, regulated, and slow-moving industry. The insurance field is not often at the forefront of technology, but technology is exactly what Dye has employed with IAG.
“The Insuretech sector is probably one of the most exciting things I’ve seen in my life. I love the insurance industry and all of the various aspects of it. Now, technology is coming into play. IAG just launched HospitalityCARE VPC, an employer-paid healthcare benefit for employees of the hotel and restaurant industries. It combines a leading telemedicine platform with medical and dental insurance benefits designed to attract and retain workers in a hyper-competitive hiring environment. This is one of the many up-and-coming IAG brands and products that focus on fair treatment of workers while uplifting an employer’s business. And, true to IAG’s Insurtech approach, all benefits are easily accessed and accessible online—a big contrast with many other insurers’ offerings.” — J. Marshall Dye, CEO, IAG
“Some of our ideas and our breakthrough product designs have been adopted and I’m excited for the consumer to have better access to medical treatment and other essential benefits.” IAG’s technology-driven efforts and employee-centric mission are advantageous to both workers and employers, the industry is learning. “During COVID, we recognized the need for virtual health care. In one year, it went from 16% of the population to the mid-70% of individuals out there who were utilizing virtual health care scenarios. We studied this and adapted our products as needed,” Dye says.
Staying up-to-date with the latest technological advances, such as IAG’s proprietary API and Multi-Tenant Architecture, is how the company is emerging as the talk of the industry at conferences and in publications covering the insurance space. This type of trailblazing innovation is imperative in times of uncertainty and COVID-19 has proven this tenfold.
“Of course, it’s nice to generate media interest and chatter at conferences, but the proof point for us is the sheer number of calls from employers who have already offered higher hourly wages, but in a tight job market are finding that $1 in benefit equals $3 in cash pay—and adds that little extra to lure employees back or keep them there,” says Dye. “California is an especially hot market for us, because the hospitality industry is huge there.”
But California and its high-tech economy is also an inspiration.
“We are constantly looking at product innovation. We are always digging into new technologies – I’m currently intrigued with Blockchain and Smart Contract. It is an incredibly exciting time. I’m an old guy,” he jokes. “But I’m incredibly excited about all of this technology and things that are going on to move us forward. It’s like a classroom around here as we absorb and study these innovations and how they can be applicable to the products we currently have and the products that need to be developed.”
The trials of starting a business and successfully growing a company are arduous. However, these adversities are also what Dye believes to be the greatest opportunities for growth. “You have to remain positive. It’s a survival instinct that business people should have,” he concludes. “When a challenge presents itself, it also presents opportunities. Every problem presents itself as an opportunity to solve that problem. Meeting employers’ needs in this jobs market coming out of a once-in-a-century pandemic is definitely a huge opportunity cloaked in a big challenge.”
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