Buckeye Farm News: 2009 – A Year In Review
Change proved to be the password at Nationwide this year, even as the insurance and financial services company continues its 83-year sponsor relationship with Ohio Farm Bureau Federation.
Leadership roles within Nationwide offered the most visible changes, as new CEO Steve Rasmussen reassigned presidents of several Nationwide companies to share their knowledge and experience across other operations. Among these changes:
Mark Pizzi became president of Nationwide Insurance
Kirt Walker was named president of Nationwide Financial
Mark Thresher became Nationwide’s chief financial officer
Larry Hilsheimer was elected president of Customer Choice Distribution, serving customers through the Internet, direct sales offices and affinity organizations.
Past OFBF board member Jeff Zellers became the chairman of the Nationwide Board Sponsor Committee, which oversees the company’s relationships with OFBF and other Farm Bureau sponsors. Kurt Ely, former senior VP for OFBF, joined Nationwide to lead the Sponsor Relations team, which works with OFBF leaders and members on a daily basis.
Other new developments at Nationwide included the opening of Ohio’s first On Your Side Center located just north of Columbus, next to the Nationwide Training Center. The On Your Side Center is staffed with licensed agents who serve as customer advocates focused on an “above and beyond” customer experience. The center also offers community space for groups such as Farm Bureau to hold meetings.
Nationwide continued to emphasize its heritage (founded by OFBF in 1926 as Farm Bureau Mutual) by initiating a new Farm Certified Agent program aimed at enhancing agents’ understanding of farm operations, risks and coverages. Along with the certification program, Nationwide Agribusiness emphasizes its On Your Side Farm Review to update farm policies and answer customers’ questions.
Remaining unchanged in 2009 was Nationwide’s support of important ag-support programs, such as Ohio 4-H, Ohio FFA and Farm Safety 4 Just Kids. Also, two additional Farm Bureaus that became sponsors of Nationwide this year – Connecticut and Vermont – highlighted the company’s continued support of Farm Bureaus and commitment to serving member insurance needs.
Other ongoing programs included member/leader meetings held with OFBF and other Farm Bureau sponsors, Nationwide’s National Policyholder Conference in which OFBF leaders took part, and the Sponsor Leader Conference – each of which gave Farm Bureau participants a chance to speak directly with Nationwide board and management members about their insurance experience with Nationwide.
For a mutual insurer like Nationwide, owned by its policyholders, these exchanges directly with customers offer the best opportunity for constructive change to continue at Nationwide in 2010 and beyond.