thebigdatainsights

Investing to Enrich Data

By S Wesley Hunt, VP, Chief Data Officer, IT, Nationwide Insurance

S Wesley Hunt, VP, Chief Data Officer, IT, Nationwide Insurance

As a diverse insurance and financial services company, customers often have multiple relationships and choices for sales and service. The need to have a single view of the customer across all of our businesses and product lines has become increasingly important.

We started to invest heavily in data & analytics when we created the Customer Information Management (CIM) program in 2007 to provide a more personalized and differentiated customer experience. The voice of the customer was clear; our members expect to be recognized, appreciated and have a consistent experience whether they interact with Nationwide in an agent’s office, over the phone or online.

The initial phases of the CIM program focused on re-organizing and enriching data to enhance the ability of our agents and associates to deliver member first service and improve productivity. Later phases built on this infrastructure to help provide a signature experience, like our exclusive On Your Side review, that offers tailored insurance coverage advice to each individual member in an effort to help them protect what matters most.

While the CIM program met all of our short-term goals, it also became a solid foundation for advanced analytics and continuous improvement—and the rapid evolution of technology that was still to come.

Initial pilots deliver success and gain sponsorship: Improving marketing and IT capabilities in the field of data & analytics is important; however, it’s equally important to demonstrate strong business results and gain a high level of sponsorship from business leaders. With all of these goals in mind, we were very thoughtful in determining our initial portfolio of projects.

Our initial portfolio of data & analytics projects was selected because it gave us the:

  • Chance to demonstrate the power of data analytics across several business units
  • Ability to grow several IT and marketing capabilities that are necessary to enterprise scale deployment
  • Opportunity to deliver significant business benefit

Building partnerships to gain access to talent:

Everyone who is familiar with this topic understands the explosive growth and demand for skills in Big Data. And while access to talent and recruiting is hard enough, keeping the skills of our associates fresh in such a rapidly evolving technology landscape is just as difficult. Nationwide is addressing these issues in several non-traditional ways:

  • Partnering with local universities to design and implement educational programs focused on building the necessary skills to support work in Big Data & Analytics,
  • Creating internship opportunities and full-time positions for graduates with skills in Big Data & Analytics to help build the talent pipeline across the IT industry,
  • Collaborating with local companies to address technological challenges to business in order to find solutions by pooling resources that have the capability to cut across industries to solve common problems.

Working with CIOs from local, non competing firms–American Electric Power, Cardinal Health, Huntington Bank, L Brands, Nationwide, Ohio Health and Battelle–the decision was made to pursue the high growth fields of data & analytics and cyber security to meet these goals and improve our individual capabilities.

Through the support and efforts of the Columbus 2020 partnership, IBM made the decision to build a center for advanced analytics in central Ohio. This center will give us immediate access to technical talent, and through a reciprocal agreement with the Ohio State University, even more internships and employment opportunities for students.

The next major milestone was the decision to develop a more formal and sustainable business model. A private venture called the Columbus Collaboratory was formed, where these seven companies will invest a total of $28 million, and work together to develop advanced analytics and cyber security capabilities. In partnership with the State of Ohio, this private investment is complemented with a $5 million grant from Ohio Third Frontier.

Nationwide recognizes that gaining value through data & analytic insights is broader than technology, math and talent. The creation of value is only achieved when trust exists across the analytics eco-system and organizations are willing to embrace changes that are derived from insights.

This “softer side” of analytics represents that art of the discipline; one that focuses on change management, influence and practitioner humility. Nationwide’s success on this journey is a result of embracing both the art and science of data and analytics. At Nationwide, we are excited to continue the journey in data and analytics as we focus on using insights as a competitive differentiator for our company.