Nationwide: Insurance as an Information Industry

Insurance might not automatically strike some as an information technology industry — selling and administering policies aren’t obviously technical pursuits.
 
But with computers handling almost all forms of financial transactions, insurance companies find they need IT staffs as large as some software companies.

Nationwide Insurance, for example, employs 6,000 IT professionals, which makes IT the second-biggest department in the company.

“My company doesn’t have an assembly line for which a widget comes out at the end,” said Randall Stevens, director of IT recruiting for Nationwide’s talent acquisition department. “Our stock in trade, what we really are, is an information technology company.”

Stevens said there are two major divisions of Nationwide: the property and casualty insurance operation, which mainly covers homeowner and auto insurance, and the financial services operation, which covers investment, retirement, life insurance, annuities and pensions.

“Both of those involve nothing more than zeros and ones in a database somewhere,” Stevens said. “Risk is expressed as a function of information inputs and outputs, investments are bank balances and discounted future cash values, and so on. Really, it’s all information.”

As a 75-year-old company, Nationwide has seen the transition from employing a simple data-processing department to a large IT staff. In that time, it’s used technology ranging from legacy mainframe systems to the latest in Web servers and everything in between.

“If it has existed in the history of IT, we have had or currently have it as a technology,” Stevens said. “And every IT job role ever designed,…


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