Stephen Gross and Gerard Hempstead have an ambitious purpose for the St. Louis region of Northwestern Mutual: “We are catalysts inspiring our communities to become the most financially secure in the world, serving one person, one family, one business at a time,” Hempstead says. But the new managing partners have plenty of experience to back up that lofty goal—both personally and within their teams of financial representatives.
Hempstead, a chartered life underwriter, chartered financial consultant, certified financial planner and certified public accountant, joined Northwestern Mutual as a financial representative in 1995 and qualified for the Million Dollar Roundtable after his first year. He continued with strong performance until 2010 when he led the company in personal production while also serving as managing director of the Clayton district office, which also was the No. 1 district office in the country that year. Gross joined the company straight out of Marquette University and also qualified for the Million Dollar Roundtable in short order. He stepped into a leadership role by launching the Chesterfield district office in 2002. Gross built his team from scratch, and by the time he moved up to managing partner, the branch was No. 2 in policies sold, No. 1 in the country in new clients and a top 10 premium office on the insurance side among all district offices, he notes.
The two became managing partners as a result of Northwestern Mutual splitting its St. Louis region. Between the two network offices, there are approximately 200 financial representatives, with locations in downtown St. Louis, Chesterfield, Clayton, Cape Girardeau, Belleville and Edwardsville, Ill. Gross points out that both offices have plans to add financial representatives, to meet the demand for trustworthy advisers that was brought on in part by the rocky economic climate. “We are building leaders from within who have an interest in growing district offices, and we want to reach more people to help provide financial security,” he says. He adds that the company’s internship program has been nationally ranked a top 10 business internship, and the St. Louis office has led the company frequently in recent years. “People need a trusted adviser,” he notes. “We’re looking for the best advisers who can build long-term relationships with people.”
Northwestern Mutual provides a complete range of financial options, including risk-management options like permanent and term life insurance, disability insurance and long-term care insurance; as well as trust services, mutual funds and advisory services. “A Northwestern Mutual adviser goes to the table looking at both sides—the defensive plan and the offensive plan,” Gross says. “Most people just think of the offensive side (such as mutual funds). But you also have to have a good defense. If there’s a hole in your defense and something goes wrong, it doesn’t matter how good the offense was, it will all unwind.”
Hempstead points out that the company’s financial representatives develop long-term relationships, meeting with each client for at least one to two hours before offering any financial products. “We get to know their objectives and dreams before we make any recommendations whatsoever on what they should do to improve their financial security,” he says. The representative will then follow up at least every six months, he adds. “We take busy, successful people off the treadmill called life to think about what they want personally, professionally and financially, and take immediate, concrete steps to achieve those goals.”