Work Unleashed: Nationwide pioneers the future of protecting people

Work Unleashed

Welcome to our Work Unleashed series: a collection of posts from Box executives and conversations with Box customers on navigating the "new normal" of work today. Here, you'll find insights and resources that enable your teams to do their best work, anywhere, anytime.

A Fortune 100 insurance and financial services company, Nationwide promises to protect people in the moment they need it — whether there’s an emergency or a planned retirement.

As Chief Technology Officer Jim Fowler recently told us, technology plays a big role in keeping that promise: “We describe ourselves as technology-enabled but people-connected in how we deliver against our mission.” The technology platforms Fowler’s team has chosen enable internal employees, independent insurance agents, and customers.

Technology is the driving engine behind all of Nationwide’s offerings. It was also at the heart of the emergency preparedness planning that put Nationwide in the best possible position when COVID-19 forced a massive transition to remote work. 

Technology at the core of customer connection

Nationwide has invested over a billion dollars in overhauling its internal transactional systems — from policy management to claims to retirement planning — and innovated ways to convert paper claims to ACH deposits. In just 16 weeks they launched a streamlined, user-friendly retirement plan mobile app. And their white-label experience, Nationwide Express, allows independent agents to insert simple code into their websites to offer automated quotes and policy sales.

“We knew that the future was going to be about connecting to our customer where they were,” Fowler says, “linking data across our systems in a way that would create a more personalized experience. But we had to get off our legacy systems and onto more modern platforms.” For this reason, Box was the content platform Nationwide chose Box not just for cloud content management and file replacement, but to create new workflows and products based on Box APIs. While many of the company’s decisions happened prior to 2020, they’ve helped Nationwide stay connected to customers and the entire workforce under changed circumstances.

A progressive approach to crisis prep

When Fowler started at Nationwide in 2018, his onboarding included installing a crisis-planning app and learning what his role would be in a crisis. Thirty days later, he experienced his first test of that plan, which included practicing a work-from-home scenario.

During this exercise, it became clear that call-center employees, bound to desktops, would have trouble adapting quickly to remote work. So Fowler transitioned the entire call-center team to laptops, buying back 1,000 laptops they had previously sold to ensure they had enough inventory.

This proactive approach gave Nationwide an advantage when COVID-19 forced a large-scale shift to remote work. In just three days, Nationwide was able to pivot 28,000 associates — 98.9% of all associates — and Fowler says, “We didn’t miss a beat. That crisis plan we did two years ago prepped us. The move to working from home was a lot less worrisome than we expected.”

Technology advantages for consumers

It’s not just employees who are affected by the stay-at-home orders, of course. Customers are now driving a lot less, rendering their auto insurance policies somewhat beside the point. Recognizing this, Nationwide recently issued an auto policy refund to members.

In a timely turn of events, the company had also just launched the product SmartMiles, which allows some consumers to pay for insurance only when they actually drive. As Fowler says, “Consumer behavior changes. We think a lot of people are going to continue to work from home, and their driving is going to decrease. We think they should stop paying their insurance rates.”

The future for Nationwide

The business continuity plan Nationwide had in place indicated that process leaders could expect about a 40% reduction in productivity during a pandemic. But in reality, after just one week, productivity data was equal to or better than in-office levels. Fowler was surprised: “I was not a believer in work from home for agile teams. I really believed in the co-location model. My team, frankly, proved me wrong in this exercise.”

Nationwide had already been looking at ways to reduce its real estate footprint across the U.S., but was worried about “the people factor.” Thanks to the rapid shift to remote work, they’ve been emboldened to reduce the number of physical locations and send parts of their national workforce to work from home permanently. “It’s early, and we’re going to let the data guide the decisions,” says Fowler, “but we’re probably going to be a little more aggressive than some other companies have based on the data we’ve seen already.”

Nationwide is leading a trend the rest of the Fortune 100 is also thinking about. The future will be less about office footprint, and more about flexible ways of working and serving customers.

Watch the full session with Jim Fowler below.