Jurgensen, William G. 1952–
William G. Jurgensen
Chief executive officer, Nationwide Financial Services and Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company
Born: 1952, in Nebraska.
Education: Creighton University, BBA, 1973; MBA, 1976.
Family: Married (wife's name unknown); children: two.
Career: Norwest Corporation, 1973–1990, eventually executive vice president; First Chicago NBD Corporation, 1990–1998, chief financial officer and executive vice president; Bank One Corporation, 1998–2000, executive vice president of corporate banking; Nationwide Financial Services and Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company, 2000–, chief executive officer.
Address: Nationwide, One Nationwide Plaza, Columbus, Ohio 43215-2220; http://www.nationwide.com.
■ William Jurgensen was named chief executive officer of Nationwide Financial Services and Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company in 2000. A Fortune 500 company, Nationwide was one of the world's largest providers of diversified insurance and financial-services products. Jurgensen's career in commercial and consumer banking facilitated a smooth transition into the insurance industry. His management style was described as hands-on and open; he encouraged participation from all employees regardless of their position within the company.
BUILDS CAREER IN BANKING
Jurgensen was born and raised in Nebraska and earned both his bachelor's and master's degrees in business administration from Creighton University in Omaha. His career in banking began in the early 1970s when he went to work for Norwest Corporation, an investment-services firm that later became part of Wells Fargo & Company. Jurgensen stayed with Norwest for 17 years, moving up through progressively more responsible and visible positions and ultimately becoming an executive vice president.
In 1990 Jurgensen moved to First Chicago NBD Corporation, where until 1998 he served as chief financial officer and executive vice president of the corporate and commercial banking units; he also oversaw operations, finance, and systems. In addition, from 1996 to 1998 Jurgensen was the chairman of FCC National Bank, First Chicago's credit-card subsidiary.
In 1998 First Chicago merged with Bank One Corporation to form one of the largest U.S. bank-holding companies. Jurgensen stayed on in his role as executive vice president of corporate and commercial banking. He left Bank One in 2000 to become the chief executive officer of Nationwide.
MOVES TO NATIONWIDE
Jurgensen became the chief executive officer of Nationwide Financial Services and Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company in 2000. He held seats on the boards of directors of Nationwide as well as several of its subsidiaries and affiliates and served as chairman of the central board from 2001 to 2003, when the functions of CEO and chairman were separated. As one of the world's largest providers of diversified insurance and financial-services products, Nationwide conducted business throughout the United States, Latin America, Europe, and Asia. Nationwide affiliates operated in the areas of domestic property and casualty insurance, life insurance and retirement savings, asset management, and strategic investments.
The insurance industry was new to Jurgensen, but his background in commercial banking eased his transition. His prior experience spanned financial services, products, and functions, and he was thus able to adeptly step into his new role at the helm of Nationwide.
Jurgensen's initial efforts as CEO focused on strategically planned growth and management changes. Nationwide's traditional product and service lines were underperforming in the sluggish economy of the early 2000s; in attempts to recover market share and restore profitability, Jurgensen intended to take the company in new directions. His efforts would conform with Nationwide's long history of groundbreaking approaches to remaining profitable during unfavorable economic times. In the 1920s the company had been the first to introduce discount auto insurance and in the 1930s was the first to offer both life and casualty insurance from the same agents. In the 1950s, going against common industry practice, Nationwide began offering mutual funds along with life insurance. Innovative variable-annuity products were introduced in the 1970s.
Although he recognized that a diversified company could be more difficult to manage successfully, Jurgensen was committed to finding new avenues of growth. Still, believing that the company had strong presences in each existing market segment, he saw no compelling reason to make changes to Nationwide's core offerings, holdings, or business practices. He attributed much of the company's past success to its diverse product lines and distribution channels. He told Business First–Columbus, "One of the things that attracted me to Nationwide in the first place was the fact that it had embraced multiple forms of distribution across all of its companies. It hasn't put a stake in the ground that it thinks there's only one way the future will unfold" (January 19, 2001).
The company focused on growth prospects that would add secure value to the bottom line. Under Jurgensen's leadership Nationwide began expanding into new areas of financial services and worked to build a larger distribution network in order to increase sales capabilities; the company experienced dramatic international growth. Product lines were expanded as well, and Nationwide evolved into a global provider of total solutions for insurance and financial management needs.
Jurgensen's approach was successful. In 2001 Nationwide had reported a loss of $295 million; one year later the company amassed $252 million in income. The property and casualty units alone added approximately four hundred new employees during an economic era in which job losses and corporate cutbacks were making headlines across the United States. Jurgensen commented in Business First–Columbus, "I think the number-one imperative for us now that we've established a foundation of profitability is to focus on the growth of the company. I think our focus is much more on policy count than it is on pricing increases. You're never really done. I think strategy formulation is a journey, not a destination" (January 19, 2001).
Jurgensen's management style was described as both handson and open; he attempted to make daily contact with key executives. He endeavored to remain accessible and approachable and to create an environment in which any worker could talk directly to executives. Under Jurgensen's leadership, input from employees at all levels was expected, not just accepted. He especially stressed the importance of gaining input from agents and agency staff, noting that they were the employees who interacted directly with policyholders on a daily basis. In his "Winning with Diversity" statement on the Nationwide Web site, Jurgensen remarked, "We have a tremendous amount of talent in this organization. We have a responsibility to use it. We must appreciate and leverage the skills and talents of every person in Nationwide. Each of us brings a unique background and set of personal experiences to our job. Mutual respect for, and trust in, these differences is critical if we are to maximize our collective knowledge."
Community service was an important part of Jurgensen's leadership at Nationwide as well as his private life. Jurgensen himself was involved in organizations working in the areas of education, social service, and the arts. During his tenure at Nationwide the company contributed approximately $17 million annually to an array of charitable organizations around the world.
sources for further information
Chase, Brett, "New Choice for Key Role at Bank One," American Banker, July 16, 1998, p. 24.
Chordas, Lori, "Making Contacts," Best's Review 2003, pp. 21–22.
Hoke, Kathy, "New Leader for New Times," Business First–Columbus, January 19, 2001, p. A1.
Jurgensen, W. G., "Winning with Diversity," http://www.nationwide.com/aboutus/diversity/index.htm, July 11, 2004.
Ptacek, Megan J., "Executive Changes," American Banker, June 5, 2000, p. 2.
—Peggy K. Daniels