Northwestern Mutual’s mission is quite a lofty goal: To make the communities they serve the most financially secure in the world. “Given our success here in St. Louis, we’re trying to serve the community from both a client perspective and a charitable perspective,” says Gerard Hempstead, managing partner at the company’s St. Louis network office. His office has a goal of giving at least $500,000 in monetary donations and 5,000 hours of community service before 2015. “It’s actually stated in our vision and we track it,” he says.
Staff members at the offices that Hempstead oversees, which include the location in downtown St. Louis, as well as Edwardsville, Ill., and Columbia, Mo., volunteer for St. Louis Children’s Hospital, St. Patrick’s Center, Swing Fore Hope and Edwardsville Neighbors in Need. In fact, Swing Fore Hope was founded by the Edwardsville office’s managing director to raise money for cancer research through Siteman Cancer Center, Hempstead notes.
Northwestern Mutual’s Clayton network office, which is overseen by Steve Gross and includes district offices in Fairview Heights, Ill., Chesterfield and Cape Girardeau, recently won the company’s Community Impact Award for its work with Kingdom House. The award includes a $50,000 grant for the nonprofit, which provides childcare, food and clothing assistance, job training, and programs for both youth and seniors in the St. Louis community. “One of the things we started is a financial literacy program through Kingdom House Academy to help youth learn the basics of strong saving strategies, how to manage a checkbook, and long-term and short-term savings,” Gross says. The grant funding will go toward providing this financial education to kids, as well as creating Individual Development Accounts for students. These accounts encourage kids to save money toward college, with a 50-percent match from Kingdom House. “I have five children myself, and we’re wildly blessed,” Gross says. “But in the world that these kids live in, their perspective of the world is so much smaller. If we can get involved and open that world up to them and make a difference, it’s fantastic.”
The company also has seen success in its business dealings this year, expecting to pay out more than a $5-billion dividend to eligible policy owners, the largest in the company’s 156-year history, Hempstead notes. “That would lead the industry by a wide margin in life insurance disability and long-term care dividends that are paid out,” he says. Local offices paid out $111 million in 2012, according to Northwestern Mutual’s 2012 Impact on Community Ranking Report.
Thanks to that success, local offices plan to add 100 new financial representatives this year, and open additional offices in Creve Coeur, Sunset Hills and St. Charles within the next three years, Hempstead says. Retention of dedicated, qualified representatives helps create lasting relationships with clients, he notes, adding that the company’s retention is almost twice the industry average. “In a relationship with a financial adviser, trust is paramount, and so our financial advisers are looking to build lifelong relationships with their clients,” Gross says. “Many of our clients work with the same financial representative over the course of 30 or 40 years. Financial planning is not an event—it’s an ongoing lifetime process.”