John C. (Jack) Fisher, Ohio Farm Bureau executive vice president

It’s Your Company

Irv, Tim, Ken, Fred, Terry and Jeff are like most Ohio farmers. They tend to their crops, care for their animals, pitch in around the neighborhood, go to Farm Bureau meetings and relax with their families. What’s different about them is that every now and then they put on a suit and tie, drive to Columbus and figure out how to help millions of people protect what’s most important in their lives.

Ohio farmers Bell, Corcoran, Davis, Finney, McClure and Zellers sit on the board of directors for Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company.

Farmers hold such a high level of responsibility for a reason, said Nationwide’s Board Chairman Keith Eckel. “They’re entrepreneurs who know how to run a business and meet a payroll. They’ve met adversity in their own businesses. They deal with weather risks and market risks every day, and they understand how to manage to protect against those risks.” Eckel, himself a farmer from Pennsylvania, said farmers and his fellow board members with backgrounds in business, management and insurance form a team “that knows how to manage our company’s business so we can meet our promises to our policyholders.”

Farmers aren’t new to the Nationwide board. In 1926, Farm Bureau members were unhappy with the cost of insurance so they launched the Ohio Farm Bureau Mutual Automobile Insurance Company. The company grew and in 1955 evolved into Nationwide. Today it’s ranked 108 on the Fortune 500 and has more than 16 million policies in force, including those held by Ohio Farm Bureau members who receive special benefits including cost savings. While the scope of the enterprise has changed, its commitment to customers hasn’t.

“We come from a singular point of view; we really only exist to serve our customers,” said Nationwide Chief Executive Officer Steve Rasmussen. That isn’t marketing hype; it’s a business structure. Nationwide is a mutual company, which means it is responsive to policyholders, not stockholders. Certainly the company aims to make money, but the goal isn’t to satisfy investors. “Our first objective is to have enough dollars in the bank to be sure that we can pay for all the promises we’ve made to our customers,” Rasmussen said.

Being a customer of a mutual company comes with some responsibility. As chairman Eckel puts it, “Nationwide is your company. In order for your company to perform at its highest and best levels, it’s important that you manage your risks, which holds down costs and benefits you and every other policyholder. “

Think about what you need to protect, be it your home, farm, car or your family’s financial security. Consider how they might be put at risk and what you can do to mitigate those risks. Things like smoke detectors or buckling your seat belt will lessen the threats. But insurance exists because there is no such thing as zero risk. An On Your Side Review with your Nationwide agent can help you identify the things that are important, how they might be threatened and how to protect them affordably.

Eighty-five years ago a small group of farmers had an idea. They believed that a company based on strong values and smart business principles could prosper by providing needed products at fair prices. And they understood that the company would best succeed by being accountable to its customers. Today, farmers remain among the leaders at Nationwide. They’re your voice in your company. And they’re central to Nationwide’s legacy of being “On Your Side.”