By Peter High, published on Forbes
Mike Keller has had one of the longest tenures as CIO of one company, as he has surpassed 16 years as CIO of Nationwide. The long tenure has had a number of significant advantages. It has helped him build rapport from the board to the executive team to his entire IT team to the company’s customers. It has also allowed him to play an influential role in the technology and business communities in Columbus, Ohio, where Nationwide is headquartered. He also makes the point that the transformational programs he has led have taken longer than the average tenure of CIOs in some cases. Having the long-term view in mind has been beneficial for Keller and for the company.
Keller has recently been a leader in Nationwide’s “One Company, One Brand” mission. As IT reaches across the entire enterprise, it is especially well suited to be the glue of this mission. Along the way, he has built an unusually strong leadership team, and a culture of collaboration inside and outside of IT.
Peter High: Mike, can you describe the diverse array of experiences that led you to your current position as chief information officer at Nationwide, as well as your responsibilities in that role?
Mike Keller: I began my career at IBM where I worked in customer facing roles that focused on technology oriented consulting and systems integration. My final position at IBM was running a P&L in their global services area before joining Bank One as their chief technology officer for technology infrastructure. I joined Nationwide as CIO in 2001, during that time I have run Sourcing and Procurement, internet, and several other areas. We have moved toward a functional organizational alignment, so I run the IT operation which is an approximately $1.3 billion a year expense operation, with over 5,000 associates and over 3,000 contractors. It is a large-scale operation in traditional areas like application development, application maintenance, infrastructure, and operations.
High: What are some of the items on your current strategic roadmap?
Keller: Our core mission remains stable. We are an insurance and financial services organization dedicated to helping protect consumers and businesses, empowering them to build a secure financial future. However, several years ago when we considered what we want Nationwide to look like in 2020 and beyond, we decided to make several fundamental changes as part of our “One Company, One Brand” strategy. Nationwide grew, in part, through acquisitions, and in many instances left those companies, their brands, and their products intact with a fair degree of independence and autonomy. The One Company, One Brand strategy involves not only a considerable amount of work at the superficial or branding level such as building signage, updating websites, and redesigning printing outputs, but also includes significant strategic initiatives. These more substantial changes are part of what we call Tier 1 Business Transformation Programs that are designed to both bring us together as one company and to simplify products, processes, and technologies.
High: What is IT’s role in the strategic business transformation? Is technology seen as the glue that holds together a One Company, One Brand mentality and mission?
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