Mark Pizzi, president and COO at Nationwide Insurance, isn’t afraid of getting old, but he is afraid of growing stale in his thinking.
In order to keep from too much hardening of the gray matter, he says go out of your comfort zone.
“Pick up magazines you would normally never read. Listen to music stations that don’t play oldies. Welcome times to be with people who are not like you,” Pizzi says.
This actually gives you an advantage because you can apply your business wisdom to new thoughts, he says, whereas young people have the thoughts but not the business wisdom.
“So, us old folks are in the catbird seat if we’re willing to keep our eyes and ears open and willing to stay young mentally,” Pizzi says.
In fact, Pizzi says it’s invigorating to be around millennials who are driving changes in how companies operate.
“It’s not just that they’re young. We were all young once, and the young ones are always the cutting edge and the rebels. But this is unique,” he says.
New technology, it seems, is wiring younger generations to view the world differently.
“Hierarchies are less important to them because, as you know, social media is the great leveler,” Pizzi says. “Theoretically, you can send a text and get a response from President Obama — I mean, the layers in between go away in social media. And everybody in the world who has a smartphone can technically communicate with everybody else.
“So it’s not the technology, but the enablement of the attitude, and this is very exciting.”
And at Nationwide Insurance, a group of business leaders are working alongside Pizzi to push insurance into the 21st century and adjust it for millennials and today’s consumers by being open to new ideas and innovation.
Through the eyes of customers
Insurance isn’t normally thought of as an innovative business, but in order to stay relevant that’s exactly what needs to happen.
Pizzi says millennials look at risk differently with the advent of autonomous cars, crash avoidance technology, car sharing, bicycle sharing and home sharing.
“All of these are massive dynamics that are changing our industry, and Nationwide doesn’t intend to be behind the eight ball in reacting to those,” he says. “We want a company that is going to proactively figure out how to turn those into business opportunities. We’re not here to stop innovation, like groups that are trying to start things like home sharing or car sharing or the autonomous car efforts. We’re here to enable it and to be part of it.”
What people in his age bracket are familiar with, like taking time with your agent to fill out a 45-page application, isn’t the future of insurance, Pizzi says.
“What I’d like to do is drive our teams into thinking more about how insurance looks through the eyes of the millennial rather than through our eyes, which tend to be a little older,” he says. “And so it’s important we innovate. It’s important that we make all our decisions first through the eyes of the customer and — in our case, our members.”
And putting the member first is the No. 1 priority of Nationwide’s board of directors and CEO Stephen Rasmussen.