President, chairman, and chief executive officer, Progressive Casualty Insurance Company
Born: May 22, 1955, in New Zealand.
Education: University of Canterbury (New Zealand), BA; University of Florida, MS.
Career: Progressive Casualty Insurance Company, 1986–1988, auto product manager for Florida and then Georgia; 1988–1990, president of the Mid-Atlantic States; 1991–1993, president of the California division; 1993–1998, president of program operations, division of consumer marketing; 1998–2000, business technology process leader and chief information officer; 2000–2001, chief executive officer of insurance operations; 2001–, president, chairman, chief executive officer.
Address: Progressive Casualty Insurance Company, 6300 Wilson Mills Road, Mayfield Village, Ohio 44143; http://www.progressive.com.
■ Glenn M. Renwick served as president, chairman, and chief executive officer of Progressive Casualty Insurance Company. At Progressive he was able to create long-term profitability through his accurate predictive insurance models, which allowed the company to insure high-risk drivers. Renwick was known as a responsive and accessible leader who welcomed new innovations in technology and believed in truthfulness in business.
Renwick joined Progressive Casualty Insurance Company in 1986 as an auto product manager for Florida. As he worked in the day-to-day local operations of the company, he learned much about Progressive's clients. Foremost among these lessons was that customers find it hard to shop for car insurance.
The easier a company makes it to buy a policy, the more likely a customer is to purchase the insurance. He also learned that good, accessible customer service can make the difference in a company's reputation, whether the customer is shopping for insurance or submitting a claim following an accident. These customer details became very important to Renwick when he entered Progressive's brand advertising and marketing department.
Remembering the lessons learned in Progressive's local operations, Renwick developed a strategy to help customers shop for insurance. His idea was to focus Progressive's marketing campaign on the specific services that assisted customers in their search for the best insurance carrier. These services included competitively priced auto insurance rates, excellent customer services, and a practice of giving customer's quotes from other competitive insurance companies as well as their own. Progressive's successful marketing campaign resulted in an increase of market share: from 1.5 percent in 1993 to 6 percent in 2003.
After his successes in the consumer marketing group, Renwick moved into a new role as chief information officer in 1998. The position of CIO at Progressive proved to be an intense and important role, since Progressive placed so much weight on technology and customer education. One of Progressive's most marketed features was their provision of insurance quotes and the selling of insurance over the Internet, beginning in 1997. Renwick extended Progressive's Internet services through creation of online interactive customer services, through which customers could look up their policy information, obtain a policy quote, check the status of a claim, make online payments, and update personal account information. Renwick considered the project, named Personal Progressive, one of his best customer-focused innovations, because it allowed customers to examine their insurance policies without going through an insurance agent or customer service representative.
As part of his plan to educate customers, Renwick added the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's side-impact head-protection crash videos to the Progressive website. The stated purpose of the videos was to help Progressive's customers make informed vehicle and insurance-purchase decisions. The posting of the videos on Progressive's website garnered considerable media attention, since it was the only authorized online outlet for viewing the crash-test videos at that time. In recognition of its usefulness and functionality, the company's Web site was named one of InfoWeek magazine's "top 10 Web sites that work in 2001" and also was named to Smart Business magazine's Smart Business 50.
Later in his term as chief information office, Renwick used his finance and engineering skills to create an accurate predictive formula to determine insurance rates. The formula models were set up as a detailed, oriented approach to calculating insurance rates based on how much, when, and where a particular person drives. The high level of predictive accuracy from the calculations allowed the company to profitably insure high-risk drivers. The main goal of the CIO during Renwick's tenure was to ensure that Progressive's technology remained ahead of the other industry leaders, and he met it with great success.
In 2000, after two successful years as CIO, Renwick became Progressive's chief executive officer. As CEO, Renwick made the tough decision to raise insurance rates, because it was the only strategy that would keep rates accurately reflecting current costs. At the same time, Renwick changed the duration of the insurance policies from 12 months to six months. Although a survey of customers found that most people prefer a longer-duration policy, Renwick felt that a shorter policy would allow the company to enhance the accuracy of their insurance rates. Wall Street and other industry leaders immediately criticized Renwick for his rate hike, and in 2001 Progressive had only 2 percent net new business. However, the company soon gained more new business when larger companies, such as State Farm Insurance, had to start aggressively raising their insurance rates after their artificially low rates resulted in large financial losses. By 2002 Progressive's new net business was booming, and the company had a 30 percent increase in new-insurance premiums.
As Progressive's new CEO, Renwick felt that it was best to categorize and prioritize the different challenges confronting him. He narrowed his management goals to making operations more efficient, improving customer services, and keeping expenses low. To decrease expenses and improve corporate efficiency, Renwick reorganized and clarified Progressive's management structure and focused on new technologies to boost efficiency. As a way to keep his finger on the pulse of clients' needs, Renwick created a series of customer questionnaires. Outside his goals as CEO, Renwick's priority for the company was to ensure that the insurance company's rates and reserves remained adequate. Progressive's focus on the accuracy of rates helped the company remain true to its slogan to make their business "all about the customer."
When Renwick became CEO after the tenure of the eccentric, visionary Peter Lewis, Progressive was already known for its ability to implement new and innovative ideas successfully. Renwick continued the company's policy of innovation by concentrating on the weaknesses of the car-insurance business and trying to find creative solutions to solve the problems. For example, Renwick recognized that car-insurance companies have the least control over events when customers are most anxious, right after an accident. To address this issue, Renwick created a network of "one-stop shopping" centers that allow the customer "to bring in the damaged car and get a replacement car immediately, and also get a beeper so that the insurer can get in touch with the customer when the car is ready." ( BusinessWeek Online , April 16, 2003) These one-stop-shopping centers helped lessen customer confusion following an accident and increased the speed with which claims were processed.
In keeping with his former role as CIO, Renwick created another model for Progressive to track information technology (IT) expenses. Given the large number of technological innovations implemented throughout the company, it was important to efficiently track the amount of profit directly related to the cost of specific IT developments. With an IT expense tracking model, Renwick was able to develop a simple budget that kept tabs on specific innovations, their cost, and their overall impact on business operations. If a project was costing more money and having a minimal positive effect compared with other innovations, Renwick and his managers would be aware of it and could further evaluate the merit of that particular IT innovation.
Renwick was known as a responsive and communicative leader who welcomed new innovations in technology. When he became CEO of Progressive, he focused on the company's organizational structure so that every employee would understand his or her job objectives and responsibilities. By establishing accountability and clear objectives, Renwick encouraged employees to focus fully on their position's goals and thus improve company productivity, and he communicated openly and honestly with his employees and shareholders so that they understood the motivations behind the business decisions made in the company. In fact, to emphasize his position, Renwick placed a picture of a naked man and the title "Bare All" on the company's 2003 annual report. He believed that the atmosphere of candor and openness at Progressive was responsible for the success of the company. As he put it, "In insurance, the foundation of success is trust. To be trusted, you need integrity and you need to be open" ( Intelligent Enterprise , March 20, 2004).
Gallagher, Julie, "Alone in the Spotlight?" Insurance and Technology , June 1, 2003, pp. 13–14.
Gogoi, Pallavi, "Progressive: Ahead of the Curve; Making It 'All about the Customer' Has Helped Drive the Car Insurer to the No. 3 Slot in Its Industry and No. 5 on the BW50," BusinessWeek Online , April 16, 2003, http://www.businessweek.com .
Tapscott, Don, "Fear No Truth," Intelligent Enterprise , March 20, 2004, pp. 10–11.
—Dawn Jacob Laney