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Ronald McNeil

Retired insurance executive Ronald Dean McNeil was born on November 4, 1952 in Detroit, Michigan to Dorothy and Elijah McNeil, who both emphasized the importance of strong faith, personal accountability and education. While attending Wayne State University where he studied finance and business economics, McNeil answered newly elected Mayor Coleman Young’s call for more African Americans to join the Detroit Police Department.

After earning his degree in finance from Wayne State, McNeil joined the Allstate Insurance Corporation. He is well known and highly respected throughout the insurance industry and is considered by many to be an industry trailblazer. McNeil was the first and only black officer in Finance at Allstate. He was elected to four senior management team positions, served as chairman of two Allstate subsidiaries and was also president of three local Allstate companies. McNeil’s vision and innovation is reflected in his major accomplishments which include: 1) The Neighborhood Partnership Program--an initiative which redefined and improved Allstate’s relationship with urban communities; 2) The Product Operations organization which changed the way the company priced, underwrote and delivered products to the market place and is the foundation of Allstate’s multi-access business model; and 3) Creation of Allstate’s first integrated distribution organization where he completely reorganized all aspects of the agency value proposition by channel.

In March, 2007, McNeil retired from Allstate after thirty-one distinguished years of service. At retirement, he was Senior Vice President of Protection Distribution and a member of Allstate’s Senior Management Team with fiscal and leadership responsibilities totaling $30 billion and 70,000 employees, making him the industry’s first African American to attain such status. McNeil was personally responsible for the recruitment and/or development of more than a quarter of the most senior leadership group.

In retirement, McNeil and his wife, Regina, focus their time and efforts on The Ronald D. and Regina C. McNeil Foundation, Inc., a private, not-for profit foundation with a focus on providing educational scholarships.

Ronald McNeil was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on April 24, 2007.

Accession Number

A2007.160

Sex

Male

Interview Date

4/24/2007

Last Name

McNeil

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Middle Name

Dean

Occupation
Schools

Cass Technical High School

Wayne State University

Barbour Magnet Middle School

Marcy Elementary School

First Name

Ronald

Birth City, State, Country

Detroit

HM ID

MCN01

Favorite Season

College Football Season

Sponsor

AON

State

Michigan

Favorite Vacation Destination

Hawaii

Favorite Quote

In God We Trust And Everybody Else Bring Facts.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Illinois

Birth Date

11/4/1952

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

North Barrington

Country

USA

Favorite Food

Shrimp

Short Description

Insurance executive Ronald McNeil (1952 - ) was senior vice president of Allstate Insurance Company and the co-founder of the Ronald D. and Regina C. McNeil Foundation, Inc.

Employment

Campbell-Ewald Company

Detroit Police Department

Allstate Insurance Company

Main Sponsor
Favorite Color

Brown, Earth Tones, Pink

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Ronald McNeil's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Ronald McNeil lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Ronald McNeil describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Ronald McNeil describes his maternal family's migration to Detroit, Michigan

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Ronald McNeil describes his paternal grandmother

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Ronald McNeil describes his father's move to Detroit, Michigan

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Ronald McNeil describes his parents and his likeness to his father

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Ronald McNeil describes his parents' commitment to education

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Ronald McNeil describes his earliest childhood memories

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Ronald McNeil describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Ronald McNeil describes his home life

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Ronald McNeil describes his childhood personality

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Ronald McNeil remembers his early education

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Ronald McNeil describes his childhood activities

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Ronald McNeil describes an encounter with law enforcement in Detroit, Michigan

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Ronald McNeil remembers Cass Technical High School in Detroit, Michigan

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Ronald McNeil recalls his start at Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Ronald McNeil reflects upon his relationship with his father

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Ronald McNeil remembers joining the Detroit Police Department

Tape: 2 Story: 11 - Ronald McNeil recalls his experiences as a police officer in Detroit, Michigan, pt. 1

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Ronald McNeil recalls his experiences as a police officer in Detroit, Michigan, pt. 2

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Ronald McNeil talks about Detroit Mayor Coleman Young

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Ronald McNeil remembers joining the Allstate Corporation

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Ronald McNeil talks about the dearth of African Americans in the insurance industry

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Ronald McNeil describes the insurance industry at the start of his career

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Ronald McNeil describes the creation of the Neighborhood Partnership Program

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Ronald McNeil talks about redlining in the insurance industry

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Ronald McNeil talks about Sears, Roebuck and Co.'s ownership of the Allstate Corporation

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Ronald McNeil recalls his early mentors at the Allstate Corporation

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Ronald McNeil remembers the networking opportunities at the Allstate Corporation

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Ronald McNeil talks about the importance of leadership

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Ronald McNeil describes the parameters for a successful finance career

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Ronald McNeil reflects upon his conversations with his father

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Ronald McNeil remembers his first role at the Allstate Corporation

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Ronald McNeil describes his career at the Allstate Corporation

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Ronald McNeil talks about his wife

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Ronald McNeil remembers his role as regional vice president

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Ronald McNeil describes the Neighborhood Partnership Program

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Ronald McNeil narrates his photographs, pt. 1

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Ronald McNeil recalls joining the senior management team at the Allstate Corporation

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Ronald McNeil talks about his strategy for risk based insurance market segmentation

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Ronald McNeil remembers reorganizing the distribution operations at the Allstate Corporation

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Ronald McNeil explains the concept of market segmentation

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Ronald McNeil talks about the presidency of the Allstate Corporation

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Ronald McNeil describes his mentoring style

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Ronald McNeil talks about his guiding principles

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Ronald McNeil describes the Ronald D. and Regina C. McNeil Foundation, Inc.

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Ronald McNeil describes the relationship between the insurance industry and communities of color

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Ronald McNeil talks about Hurricane Katrina's impact on insurance companies

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Ronald McNeil describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Ronald McNeil reflects upon his life

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Ronald McNeil reflects upon his legacy

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Ronald McNeil describes his activities during retirement

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Ronald McNeil talks about his family

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Ronald McNeil describes how he would like to be remembered

Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Ronald McNeil narrates his photographs, pt. 2

DASession

1$1

DATape

4$2

DAStory

4$11

DATitle
Ronald McNeil remembers his first role at the Allstate Corporation
Ronald McNeil recalls his experiences as a police officer in Detroit, Michigan, pt. 1
Transcript
Can you kind of walk us through your career at Allstate [Allstate Corporation], and, and kind of you know, well just you know I guess and, and tell us what, what you learned at each stage?$$Well, you know started in the finance function and was lucky to start with the first black officer there [Joseph P. Harris]. Starting in finance was, was, it was a godsend because I learned so much about the whole business, it's not like you can learn a lot about sales. You can learn about claims or underwriting or actuary; you learn a lot about the, the whole business. So I quickly got to a place where I was--both recognized that and was told that, that you know you're gonna get a look at the business from a, from a unique perspective and take advantage of that, and I did. Because I'd have to tell you that I, I mentioned at an early age in the learnings that I had had and the time I spent with my dad [Elijah L. McNeil, Jr.]. And, and, and my, my mom [Dorothy Harrison Vary] as well, there was this platform of choices, and the first choice, and I said there were four, the first choice is choose to learn because the best title you can ever have as a student because when you think about it, you're paid to learn. And that's your title. And when you think about it, the, the most underutilized muscle you're gonna have, when you're born you got far more brain capacity and when you die you still have untapped, unused brain capacity. So, choosing to learn both spiritually and cognitively if you make that affirmative choice that's the deal, that's huge. So going into Allstate in the finance department, I was poised that I was gonna learn as much about it. And again I can go back to lessons that my father would teach me, y- my father put in his own driveway changed the furnace, rebuilt half the house. He did all those things by just watching people and asking questions. Now at the time that wasn't something that was so this huge revelation to me until he kind of put into perspective to me. He said you know, "Son, I only had a six grade education, but I think if I can sit down and watch you, and I can ask you certain questions, I can do just about anything," and, and he did. Rebuild engines, put--he, he did all that and other kind of stuff, didn't have the money to do some of the other alternatives, but he, he did again with this six grade education. Could learn all this stuff that, hell, I can't do today. So as I got to Allstate it was clear that I figure I could, I could just about learn anything that was out there. I mean because those were the, the kind of expectations that he had put on me, so being a student of the business. So I learned a lot in that that that first job.$What was it like being a police officer in Detroit [Michigan]? Now you're one of the few black officers maybe you say 20 percent of the officers were black pretty much?$$True.$$This is with a 80 percent black population?$$Right, right.$$So how did you, how did you take to it?$$I, well first off I didn't know what I was doing but I, I got hooked up with a couple of older, Bill Downing and Sam Jones who were--Sam William- Bill Downing [ph.] and Sam Williams [ph.]. Two older police officers had been around for a long time who kind of took me under their wing, and they took me under their wing for the sole purposes of making sure that I would not be a cowboy. And, so that was the, the grounding that I got that was beneficial. The thing that was eye opening that a lot of people have little insight into, is how fractured the police department was. I could, I've got story upon stories of things that happened when I was--when I was a police officer from, from fights between police officers in the, in the briefing room, to un-handcuffing prisoners, black prisoners because they were being mistreated by white officers. I don't characterize that as the all of what the, but, but the eye opener for me was the level of racial tension inside the police department that I, that I had no clue walking into. I, you know you think about this, this blue brotherhood of and, and that really (laughter), really wasn't the case. But the other thing that it helped me get sensitive to was the, the plight of the f- person on the other side of that badge. Because I've been into so many instances where black folks would do just about anything the police officer would ask you to do. Whether or not you should or shouldn't, it was just kind of what you decided to do. But then the, the flipside of that was to, to get insight into the level of compassion that black officers would have in those situations was, was, was kind of a, a real good educational exposure for me, as, as a young man. So, and then but then the other side of it was the, the danger aspect of it was something my family didn't want--excuse me--didn't want me to be a police officer. But I, I used to tell them I said, you know, the, the crooks have always had more firepower than the police. But back then when I was a police officer we did have the element of a slightly more sophisticated communication system. That was pre-beepers, pre-cell phone, pre- all of this other kind of stuff, pre--so our communication network was at least a little better than that of the criminal. So I, I would use that to kind of defuse the notion of, why do you wanna be out there chasing crooks and putting your life in harm's way all the time?