Gary Douglas currently serves as the president of Nationwide National Partners, an organization whose blueprint is to simply bolster national partnerships, develop innovative business solutions and empower the community through definitive outreach programs. During Douglas’ tenure at Nationwide, he has effortlessly increased the company’s profitable growth through implementing collaborative solutions and a competitive insurance program. Formerly recognized as Black Enterprise magazine’s 2012 “100 Most Powerful Executives in Corporate America” it’s clear why Douglas’ leadership is keeping Nationwide on the forefront of enterprise advancement. Nationwide has recently united with the Urban League and has major plans to assist Black communities and urban residents seeking financial stability.
Read what he has to say.
How did Nationwide’s insurance partnership with the Urban League come about?
It kind of started back in 2000 when Hugh Price was the CEO of the Urban League. I remember he came to Columbus, [Ohio], to visit with some of the leaders and it continued to evolve. I think when Marc Morial and one of our executives, Gale King, kind of connected is really when the relationship started to take off in about 2008.
For those who might be unfamiliar, what exactly does the Urban League do to empower communities?
Marc Morial said it the best. It’s not just about rhetoric but it’s about the plans and actions to help identify the challenges in our urban areas and in our markets. And what plans can they help implement to raise the level of those communities. Then, they go on to solicit the businesses in those communities to help support those plans.
There are many areas that need to be addressed when discussing community empowerment. What has been Nationwide’s primary community focus?
I would say its primary focus continues to be supporting those folks within the community with some type of financial instability. For example, we support the local food banks in our community. I think we all know that hunger is a major issue in every community so we work with food banks to try to provide food and services. We are a major contributor for United Way and a major contributor for the Salvation Army. When people are impacted by those catastrophes, we are there to help support and cover. At its core, I would say that’s kind of where we focus.
How does a company like Nationwide impact the community in ways that the community might not see?
How they would not see it I think would be pretty difficult because I think we are very visible. For example, in the city of Columbus we support the Children’s Hospital for urban communities and markets where infant mortality is higher than it is in other parts of the state. The investment we have with Nationwide’s Children’s Hospital, which is in downtown Columbus, as well as various urban markets in the city, is one visible way that we do that. We also make significant capital investments in the infrastructure of some of the buildings that you would see in some of the various markets. We tend to focus on capital investments where the bulk of our associates and our members live when you think about cities like Sacramento, Columbus, San Antonio, Raleigh, Columbus just to name a few.
What types of training programs does Nationwide have for individuals who might be interested in starting a career with the company?
They are pretty extensive and it depends on what career path they choose. Once they are hired by Nationwide, if they go into claims there is a very specific training program that they will go through. If they go into underwriting there is an underwriting track. The good thing is that these associates that come in and complete those training courses also have the ability to cross functionally develop. If anybody is interested in going into underwriting from claims we have the ability to make that happen as well.
What skills would you say are essential for emerging professionals to start their careers?
I would say probably a number of things. Number one would probably be to have business acumen and good problem-solving skills. Our business is about trying to figure out how we help our members solve whatever problems or concerns our business partners may have. To be able to have those analytical business skills are some of the core things we look for when we look to hire. When they bring those skills to the table we can teach them the technical side of the business whether again it’s claims, underwriting or finance.