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Washington State Dental Association

How the acquisition of NORDIC continues to benefit both WSDA and ODS

  Since opening its doors in 1989, NORDIC has grown dramatically by focusing on providing superior claims defense, timely risk management advice, and efficient customer service.  Formed by WSDA with Physicians and Dentists Insurance to meet the needs of dentists, NORDIC was later jointly purchased by WSDA and Oregon Dental Service (ODS). Today, NORDIC insures more than 2,600 dentists in Washington, and practicing dentists hold seven of the eight seats on its board of directors to ensure that dentist’s needs are fully realized. 
In 2010, NORDIC forged a relationship with with the Idaho Dental Association to bring its products into that state — to date, the agreement shows great promise. It’s just one more example of how forward-thinking decisions by the WSDA Board and Executive Director Stephen Hardymon are keeping the organization robust. 
We recently sat down with Dr. William Ten Pas, Chairman of ODS companies, Dr. Douglas Walsh, President of WSDA and NORDIC board member, Dr. James Ribary, Immediate Past President of WSDA and another NORDIC board member, and Dr. Mark Walker, Past President of WSDAto get their take on the company, its success to date, and the future.

How has the relationship between ODS and WSDA exceeded your expectations?
Dr. William Ten Pas, Chairman, ODS Companies: It is truly a partnership — not the kind of relationship where one or the other dominates. We have common goals, beliefs, and tactics. It has been a  great working relationship in an environment that I think will be beneficial to everyone in the northwest.

Dr. Douglas Walsh, President, WSDA: ODS Companies has exceptionally high integrity, great resources at their disposal and terrific, high, quality leadership. Those qualities have helped to make the arrangement mutually beneficial.
Dr. James Ribary, Immediate Past President, WSDA: I think the key element is that it has never been a “them and us” partnership — we’ve always looked to what would be best for both organizations.
Dr. Mark Walker, Past President, WSDA: Working with ODS and their people has been a huge benefit to the WSDA as a partner. They bring all of their back office expertise to NORDIC which includes marketing, underwriting, and claims adjudication. These are areas that are so important to the success of the business and WSDA relies heavily on their years and years of experience in these areas.

What would you characterize as the strong suit of NORDIC as an insurer?

Ribary: Clearly, it’s that NORDIC is WSDA-owned with profits coming back to us.  We know we have a great product, so beyond that we have to consider the financial arrangement  — we have already almost paid for the entire buy in with flow through profits from our WDIA broker.

Direct ownership by dentists is key. Because of that, the service is extraordinary and intuitive. We deal only in dental products, which allows them to focus very intently on what is best for dentists and the industry.

Ten Pas:
First of all, our dental expertise. NORDIC is local, not in Cincinnati or some other place — we know the market and our pricing is very competitive in the industry. When customers call, they actually get a person on the line. We call every doctor — to get their profile correct, and make sure their coverage is adequate in case of loss — and talking to an individual is very important to gathering that information.

We know the dentists in the Northwest and how they practice. We have a pulse on how the State Dental Disciplinary Boards work and the litigation climate, so we have a good chance to intercept problems before they get into the costly and emotionally draining court situations. NORDIC is a Northwest company covering dentists that are members of our professional associations. It’s a win – win situation for all concerned.

How has the collaboration between the two entities strengthened ODS and WSDA?

Ten Pas: Our policies were different and significant, and there were good things in both policies, and that’s been very helpful. Joining together has allowed the two property casualty companies to have more recognition in the market, and that’s been helpful. I think also that the working relationship has been very beneficial. We’re very dentist-oriented, and I think it has made us even more so, aligning with the WSDA.

Ribary: We no longer depend on reserves, we are equity based. This partnership alone has increased our net worth a million dollars over the past four years.

Walker: With current NORDIC Board members Jim Ribary and Doug Walsh sitting on the WSDA Board of Directors as Immediate Past President and current WSDA President I think the WSDA has benefitted greatly from collaboration with our partners in Oregon. Seeing how a large scale business like ODS runs their operations has delivered benefits throughout the whole WSDA organization. I know that ODS has benefitted through our relationship as well as they have switched some of their money managers handling their investments and reserves based on the WSDA’s successes.

How has the relationship benefitted our members?

Walsh: Our members have ownership in Nordic which has helped stabilize the dental malpractice insurance business in our state. And obviously, there’s a clear financial incentive to our members, in that NORDIC pays back dividends to WSDA for every policy written. That helps keeps dues low and also spreads risk by incorporating a larger pool.

Ribary: I agree with Doug — purchasing NORDIC has improved our financial strength, and that allows us to make decisions for the Association (like buying a building) that will positively affect the organizations for decades.

Walker: The WSDA is a stronger organization because of NORDIC. There has been increased communication between the WSDA and its members as a result of WDIA’s Matt French and his team being out in the community talking with dentists. This natural exchange of ideas and membership needs filters back to the WSDA and provides insight into ways that the WSDA can increase services to our dentists. The WSDA is a member driven organization and one of the finest run dental associations in the country. The members always come first.

What’s in the future for NORDIC past infiltration into Idaho?

Ribary: The future is limitless, it is only confined by our imaginations.  I think that one day, our buy-in to NORDIC will be looked at as a defining moment of the WSDA.

Walsh: I imagine endless possibilities of new business adventures with our partners at ODS and other, yet to be discovered partnerships. This relationship, the building, and our never-ending quest to ensure stability for the organization have built us tremendous credibility and clout in the business world.
What would you say to a WSDA member who isn’t insuring with NORDIC?

Ten Pas: Talk to us, get a quote, start there! The way dentists are treated at NORDIC is much different than the way they’ll be treated by those out of state companies. Then, talk with friends and colleagues who currently insure with us to hear about the individualized treatment they get. There’s no phone tree, they have access to a person at any time, there are agents here in the state, and the WSDA is ever-vigilant in assuring that we continue to serve the specific needs of the dental community. There are a lot of checks and balances that really make this product beneficial to them.

Walsh: Look at who is on the Board of Directors at NORDIC —  it is representative of their needs and the desire to move forward. Having the company tied in with the association guarantees that members are represented at all times. And, profits go back into the association and the people of Washington, and not to some company in Connecticut or Delaware. Get a quote, and call me  at (206) 762-8433 if you decide not to insure with NORDIC. We want to know what we have to change to get each and every one of our members on board. NORDIC is that good.

Ribary: Are you kidding? We’ve got great products, competitive pricing, fantastic customer service. Get a quote from us, then make your decision. If there’s some reason why you don’t choose NORDIC, I want to know about it. Call me directly at (253) 380-2902.

Walker: Right now we are focusing on Washington and Idaho. Currently we have a virtually untapped market in Idaho and our first order of business in 2011 is to get the Idaho State Dental Association dentists on board as NORDIC clients. In 2010 we surpassed our goals there and we anticipate an ambitious rise in the number of dentists we insure. Beyond that, with NORDIC Board members like WSDA Immediate Past President Jim Ribary and current WSDA President Doug Walsh I would say the future of NORDIC is in good hands!
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