Dependability. Integrity. Responsibility. At a time when these values seem to be in short supply, the Qualy Group at Northwestern Mutual continues to earn the confidence of its clients. “We are a values-driven company with deep roots in the community,” says John Qualy, the group’s managing partner. “Our business is built on a strong foundation of trust.”
According to Northwestern Mutual, the company as a whole approved more than $4.5 billion in dividends to policy owners in 2009, including an interest rate of 6.5 percent on most unborrowed permanent life insurance funds. “Even if difficult market conditions continue, we’re well-positioned to weather market volatility and maintain financial strength,” Qualy says. “We don’t make aggressive guarantees. We have no debt on our balance sheet, and we have a continuing commitment to financial security and long-term value for policy owners.”
The Qualy Group, with seven offices in the Missouri and Illinois region, specializes in insurance products, estate planning and investment services. Fortune magazine has named the group ‘America’s Most Admired’ life/health insurance company an astonishing 25 times since 1983, an honor bestowed on the basis of its quality of management, quality of products and services, long-term investment, use of corporate assets, innovation, social responsibility, and financial soundness. Northwestern Mutual consistently earns ‘best possible insurance financial strength’ ratings from Fitch, Standard & Poor’s, Moody’s and A.M. Best Company.
But Qualy isn’t resting on these laurels. “Without a doubt, the economic downturn has been a wake-up call,” he acknowledges. “But there’s much we can learn from this series of events. There’s never been a better time for people to take a long, close look at the financial soundness of the institutions they entrust with their security.”
Although the financial world has changed, basic needs remain the same, Qualy points out. “For example, I have a 14-year-old daughter, so my family has to plan for college,” he says. “Some families may have a member who becomes disabled; others may have to deal with a long-term illness. All of us are living a lot longer. We have to be prepared if we’re going to handle these needs. Families need to assess where they are and make some decisions about what they want. Our financial representatives can help with this process.”
Qualy, the third generation of his family to work for Northwestern Mutual, has been with the company 40 years. “We’ve been in business since 1857, and in St. Louis for more than 100 years,” he says. “Financially, we’ve always been strong as an ox.” He attributes some of this stability to the fact that Northwestern Mutual is owned by its policy holders, not stockholders. “That gives us an advantage in today’s marketplace because we’re able to invest for the long haul,” he says. “The only people we answer to are our clients.”
He also credits a team of seven managing directors who oversee the financial well-being of local policy holders: Gerard Hempstead, based in Clayton; Matt Plocher, based downtown; Brett Gilliland in Glen Carbon, Ill; Steve Gross in Chesterfield; Roger Lowery in Belleville, Ill.; David Hahs in Cape Girardeau; and Jerome Patty in Columbia.
“We have confidence in our process and trust in our people,” Qualy says. “Every decision we make is guided by the question, What is in the best interests of our policy holders? There’s no substitute for sitting down with clients on a regular basis and reviewing their hopes and dreams. They can’t achieve these without a financial road map, and that’s what we provide.”