Profile: Thomas Wilson '80
policy lets Allstate COO Wilson keep pace with hurricane-force
challenges and drive innovation in staid insurance arena
an executive at a longstanding firm in the conservative insurance
industry, it might be relatively easy for Thomas Wilson
'80 to embrace the status quo.
Wilson, who is president and COO of The Allstate Corporation,
is a self-described change artist whose career has spanned
investment banking, operations and senior management, to name
a few. He's not one to neglect personal development or to
let things grow stagnant at the company he helps run.
you are not growing and changing as an individual, you cannot
expect your business to change," the Kellogg School alum
says. "And I thrive on change."
joined Allstate more than a decade ago, beginning as its chief
financial officer and, ultimately, going on to serve as the
firm's president and COO. His current job includes responsibility
for all the company's insurance operations and comes with
a mission defined by Wilson himself: to prove that a giant
with $35 billion in revenue and an 11 percent market share
in automobile and home insurance can innovate much the way
don't believe that just because you are in what many regard
as a slow-growth category you have to be a slow-growth business,"
he says, citing Allstate's new breed of auto insurance. "Gold"
and "platinum" levels offer customers new options,
such as the ability to drop their deductible if they go accident-free
for a certain period.
penchant for leading change will no doubt be tested as insurance
executives and government leaders ponder life after a year
of hurricane devastation in 2005. Wilson is well aware that
many scientists and environmentalists say changing climate
conditions are to blame for greater numbers of cataclysmic
weather events. Indeed,
eight of the 11 most expensive natural disasters occurred
within the last four years, according to insurance industry
minimum, the world is in a 20- to 30-year cycle of more frequent
and severe hurricanes, Wilson says. Adding to the dilemma
for insurance executives is the fact that home values have
spiraled upward and that many people choose to live where
they are vulnerable to such disasters as earthquakes and hurricanes.
lost a lot of money on hurricanes last year," the Allstate
president says, adding that privately funded state and national
government catastrophe funds must be established to provide
more protection at lower costs for consumers. "We still
made money, but we cannot continue to shoulder these kinds
of losses. Consumers need to be better prepared and more protected."
assuming his current role, Wilson has perhaps worked hardest
to strengthen relationships inside the company and out. Three
and a half years ago, relations with agency owners who sell
the company's products were at an all-time low and there were
calls to unionize.
Wilson says, a self-survey of agency owners ranks relations
with Allstate at an all-time high. What's more, he says, those
positive feelings have resulted in an expansion of licensed
sales professionals in agency offices.
his "people first" theme, Wilson has directed additional
resources toward developing and training employees and strengthening
relationships within the community. He's also increased funding
for The Allstate Foundation from $6 million to $18 million
— dollars that flow into the community from some of
the 2,000 agency owners with hands in the community.
of the giving, he says, is directed to programs that promote
teen driving safety, empower victims of domestic violence
and address other community issues.
are the most important asset we have," Wilson says. "In
our business, we have people and money, some buildings that
we lease and a bunch of computers. It is the people who will
drive our success."
lesson harkens back to Wilson's days at the Kellogg School,
where projects in celebrated professor L.G. Lavengood's class
were just some of the tasks that taught him that "people,
personality and personal objectives can help you achieve your
of the reasons I was attracted to the Kellogg School,"
he says, "is that I saw professors thinking about business
in a broader sense. They included the skill of successfully
interacting with people, which is something I valued —
and still value — a lot."