In Part 1 of BE’s interview with Steve S. Rasmussen, the CEO opened up about Nationwide’s diversity and inclusion practices with our Editor-in-Chief, Derek Dingle. In Part 2, Rasmussen discusses the growth and expansion of the multibillion-dollar insurance service company.
In some cases, you have taken a personal and professional interest in driving your leadership team to expand and grow. For example, you helped EVP & CAO Gale King gain mentorship to position her for corporate directorships.
RASMUSSEN: I see that as a part of my primary responsibilities—facilitating the growth and development of our leadership. For example, I serve on the board of Catalyst [the leading nonprofit organization seeking to advance female corporate inclusion] and one of our areas of focus has been trying to position more women for corporate directorships. As such, it has been my distinct pleasure to nominate Gale for its mentorship program so she can realize opportunities to become engaged on boards outside of Nationwide.
I encourage all members of our leadership team to pursue an array of activities, including involvement with corporate boards, volunteer organizations, community efforts, and nonprofit groups. I view such activities as being valuable to their growth and development. In turn, they have demonstrated their willingness to give back to our associates with their time, guidance, and mentorship. For example, our EVP and CMO Terrance Williams, one of the founding fathers of our African American men’s Associate Resource Group, and other senior leaders regularly offer direction to young professionals within our company. They share how they made their professional ascent and the requirements that come with such mobility. I am extremely proud that a byproduct of these sessions is that our leaders not only encourage them to develop skills to become consummate professionals but gain qualities to help them grow into better citizens.
With the series of fatal shootings of black males, the rise of Black Lives Matter, and the like, there has been a greater emphasis on honest conversations about race in the workplace. Are you leading Nationwide to foster such discussions among employees?
RASMUSSEN: We thought it was extremely important to respond to the growing number of questions from our associates around the many issues facing the country. To that end, we developed a program embraced by our entire leadership team called Catalyst for Change to foster frank conversations with groups of our associates. After our very first session, a number of them were actually surprised that we would even engage in that level of conversation. It was an unbelievably powerful experience. The challenge has been how do we take that internal conversation and engage with our stakeholders in broader communities? We’re trying to engage [people] because many are looking for answers. I believe Nationwide can play a valuable role in helping to facilitate such dialogue within the communities in which we serve.
How has Nationwide’s culture enabled the company to apply innovation to connect with a growing millennial, multicultural consumer base?
RASMUSSEN: As the nation grows even more diverse, data and analytics have become even more important to us. The more we gain a greater understanding of cultural nuances from our research the better we are able to develop products, services, and marketing techniques, among other elements, that can reach consumers where they live. In fact, I believe we will be more effective in our consumer outreach than we have been in the past. I think that’s going to be an imperative for every organization. The successful ones are going to be those that grasp the small differences in people and will be able to make the consumer feel like you really are, in our case, on your side.