Students at the University of South Carolina received a crash course in the evolution of the insurance business and how it is being marketed to the public during a recent seminar.
Terrence Williams, chief marketing officer and president of emerging business for Nationwide Insurance, spoke at the CMO Summit held at the Darla Moore School of Business. Williams described the evolution of the insurance field and discussed the factors behind its increasing fluidity.
“The market is being driven by disrupters,” Williams said. “You have a number of startup organizations that are trying to enter the industry, and it’s requiring all of us to step up our game and do things differently.”
Williams said traditional barriers such as capital and proprietary data are no longer keeping startups from venturing into wider coverage categories.
“Organizers normally need lots of capital before they could get started, but the markets are flushed with capital these days,” Williams said. “You have V.C.s (venture capitalists) out there throwing lots of dollars around.”
Williams said stockpiled data used to be an advantage for the bigger companies, but that edge no longer exists thanks to the wealth of readily available data on individual customers.
“Regulatory restraints were a barrier that helped (Nationwide), but what startups will do is find a partner who is already in a state and push out product that way,” Williams said. “You’re seeing more products in the existing space. State Farm, Nationwide — we have to evolve what we’re doing while maintaining the core of what we have done for hundreds of years.”
Williams said his group has a strong property casualty business and a solid financial services business. He said Nationwide is establishing an emerging businesses group which will help the insurance giant plan for the future in the present.
“We have to understand how we partner with a startup company and how to disrupt our own core businesses to become more fluid,” Williams said.
Williams told the students during his lecture that Nationwide was beginning to place a lot of bets within the insurance industry, upping the ante of its presence even in the face of increasing competition. Small businesses in particular offer an intriguing chance to continue growing business and marketplace share, he said.
“People still think of insurance as this old, stodgy business, but we’re more prominent now in commercial insurance and small business insurance,” Williams said. “We’re the No. 1 writer of small business insurance in the U.S. We think the opportunity there is significant, so we continue to push and grow more aggressively.”
Nationwide makes helping small business owners meet their needs a priority, Williams said, and puts it technology where its promises are.
“We launched a website about a year ago that helps small business owners connect with vendors and partners,” he said. “We can help guide them to resources that help their business and round out all of their needs.”
Williams also mentioned the growing need for cyber insurance, illustrated by the recent hacks suffered by Yahoo and Equifax, and a continued interest in financial services such as retirement planning and annuities as opportunities for Nationwide to keep finding ways to help customers in a changing insurance landscape.
“When you think about the baby boomer population and how many will be retiring the next decade, many don’t prepare,” Williams said. “We believe we can serve a purpose to help them. People are living to be 80, 90, 100 years old. People are not preparing for that long.”
This story first appeared in the Oct. 23, 2017, print edition of the Columbia Regional Business Report.