Merrill native Nickel attains national insurance industry’s highest post
On Dec. 13, 2016, Ted Nickel was elected as the 2017 President of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC).
The NAIC is the U.S. standard-setting and regulatory support organization created and governed by the chief insurance regulators from the 50 states, the District of Columbia and the five U.S territories of Puerto Rico, American Samoa, Northern Mariana Islands, US Virgin Islands and Guam.
Born and raised in Merrill, Nickel graduated from Merrill High School with the class of 1984 and proceeded to attend Valpraiso University in Valpraiso, Ind.; majoring in Business Administration with a concentration on Finance.
Nickel earned his Bachelor of Science Degree in 1988 and returned to Wisconsin, working for three years for a cabinet member of Governor Tommy Thompson’s administration in both the Labor and Health and Human Services Departments.
“Working for governor Thompson was a great experience,” Nickel said. “I was baptized in working for state government and met many good friends who I still have contact with. I enjoyed how Governor Thompson ran the state government and his policies. Even though I was living in Madison, I still made a point to visit my hometown as much as I could. I always wanted to return to Merrill at some point. I am a hunter and fisherman at heart. I love nothing more than being in the woods or on the water.”
Then in 1993, an opportunity to return to his hometown presented itself when Nickel accepted a position with Church Mutual Insurance Company, of which his father Dieter was CEO for 30 years.
Nickel’s insurance career spanned 18 years with Church Mutual, working in the areas of compliance and operations as well as regulatory work.
Then in 2011, Nickel seized yet another opportunity to work for state government, as a member of Govenor Scott Walker’s cabinet.
“I believed in what the governor stood for and wanted to be part of his administration. So when he started filling out his cabinet I applied for the position of State Insurance Commissioner and was appointed on Jan 2, 2011.” Nickel explains.
Nickel has remained at his post since.
“I had no idea what I was getting mysef into, but I must admit it’s been everything I hoped for and much more. The position brings many opportunities and challenges such as supervising 150 staff for example. Another challenge was the Afforable Care Act.
“When it was passed, the challenge of administering programs to the state of Wisconsin was placed in my lap. I spent a greater part of most every day operationalizing and making ACA work in the state of Wisconsin.”
Aside from serving as state commissioner, Nickel’s experience in the insurance industry has branched far and wide, including serving on the board of directors of the Wisconsin Insurance Alliance (WIA), including having served as WIA chair.
Nickel has served on the board of directors of the Wisconsin Insurance Security Fund and the Oklahoma Property Casualty Insurance Guaranty Association, as well as having served as a member of the Legal and Government Affairs Committee of the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America (PCI).
Then in November of 2015, Ted was elected NAIC Vice President.
He currently serves on the Executive (EX) Committee, Cybersecurity (EX) Task Force, Governance Review (EX) Task Force, Government Relations (EX) Leadership Council, International Insurance Relations (EX) Leadership Group, Audit Committee and the Internal Administration (EX1) Subcommittee.
He chairs the NAIC/Industry Liaison Committee and is vice chair of the Consumer Participation Board of Trustees.
He is also a member of the NAIC American Indian and Alaska Native Liaison Committee and serves on several other NAIC task forces and committees.
In addition, he chairs the Mortgage Guaranty Insurance (E) Working Group, and the Health Care Reform Regulatory Alternatives (B) Working Group.
As the newly elected NAIC president, Nickel will serve a one-year term.
His responsibilities will include, but are not limited to, fulfilling duties such as being the face of the organization, speaking on behalf of the organization and maintaining constant communication with commissioners from other states and territories.
“This is a great opportunity for me personally as I enjoy my job very much,” Nickel explains of his new post. “This is also a tremendous opportunity for the State of Wisconsin to be in a national leadership role. There has been only five Wisconsin Insurance Commissioners to serve in the national capacity since 1871, two of which were in the 1800s.”
“I had a vision for things to be done in 2017, then the election happened,” he jokes. “One of the interesting things I am facing this year as president of the NAIC, will be focusing on potential changes and opportunties with possible repeal and question marks regarding the Affordable Care Act. Other matters I will be addressing will be possible Dodd Frank reform and reauthorization of the National Flood Insurance Program.”
Despite the long laundry list of Nickel’s involvement and responsibilities in the insurance industry, after 23 years of service he cites a genuine sense of reward as his driving force.
“The moments where you get a thank you or give someone peace of mind is what makes my job worthwhile. Helping consumers on a daily basis, no matter what that assistance entails, is what it comes down to for me at the end of the day.”
Ted and wife Kim currently reside in Madison, with children Jack and Anie.