From the library to the Urban League to the region's health care giants and beyond, Rasmussen has left an indelible impression on Columbus.
The morning after he announced his retirement having spent 45 years in the insurance industry, Nationwide CEO Steve Rasmussen sat in his 37th floor offices at One Nationwide Plaza, surrounded by advisers and seeming like someone who had checked off all but one of the items on his professional life’s to-do list. His face glowed in the warm lamplight against a backdrop of rich wood paneling, an abstract portrait of Albert Einstein done in black-and-white on the wall to his left. Rasmussen could take pride in having led the teams that executed on the company’s well-laid plans.
In the 10 years since his predecessor was unceremoniously dismissed during the midst of the greatest economic calamity the United States has experienced since the Great Depression, sales had more than doubled at the insurance and financial services giant from $21 billion to $47 billion. Thanks to the robust, decade-long economic expansion that had caused Nationwide Financial’s investments to balloon, profits were doing OK, even as ever-more-severe storms and wildfires buffeted the company’s P&C business. The company had been transformed from a geographically and historically diverse collection of brands brought together through acquisition into one identity: an eagle flying across a giant, blue “N” and a single tagline, “Nationwide is on Your Side.”
Operations that once carried significant redundancy had been streamlined, and a leaner workforce of 30,000 was more engaged than ever, winning the company best-workplaces awards year after year. (About 13,000 of its workers are in Central Ohio.) The company was chasing innovation with investments in startups. Rasmussen had just one thing left to do: Help whoever was named to succeed him transition into a role as important and powerful as any, not only in Columbus, but probably in the state of Ohio. A man of process, Rasmussen seemed to look forward to the moment.
“I have every anticipation it’s going to go well and easily,” he says. “We’ll slide through our (annual) strategic planning process in the summer and I’ll slide out the door by the first of October or so. [But I’ll be available to help] with the transition stuff until the first of the year or so.” At 66, his departure came as no surprise internally (or externally). “More than a year ago, I told the board we’re kind of getting down to what the timeframe would be that I’m going to leave. And so we’ve worked our way toward this in rough terms. The board’s finishing up its process to make its final decisions and I don’t imagine it’s going it be too long before they make the announcement of who my successor is,” Rasmussen says. He pointed to a strong crop of internal candidates, saying, “we were very blessed. We have a great team.”
Continue reading Katy Smith's interview with Steve Rasmussen at Columbus CEO.