Nationwide Financial Services Inc., the U.S. retirement savings arm of Nationwide Mutual Insurance Co., said Wednesday that President and COO Joseph J. Gasper will retire in May 2004.

He will be succeeded by SVP and CFO Mark R. Thresher. The change will become official on the date of the Columbus, Ohio, firm's annual shareholders meeting, in the first week of May.

Gasper, 60, has been Nationwide Financial's president and chief operating officer since December 1996 and a director since November 1996. He started his Nationwide career in 1966 as a group underwriter.

Thresher, 46, has been senior vice president and chief financial officer of Nationwide Financial since November 2002.

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