This spring, when the novel coronavirus descended on our country, suddenly society faced a multitude of emotions, not the least of which was fear of the unknown. With so much uncertainty swirling around us as new (and sometimes contrasting) facts and figures emerged, many sought ways to feel prepared, in control and settled; financial planning topped the list.
Fortunately, when COVID-19 hit, Northwestern Mutual was already set up to do virtual meetings.
“Our company is built for times like this,” says Shawn Kelley, Managing Partner at Northwestern Mutual. During this unique time in history, they made it easier for clients and companies to get the data they need so they could make faster decisions on issuing policies. For example, on all investment products, people can open up accounts and initiate business with digital signatures, virtual meetings and the like.
“It’s been amazing what I’ve seen our advisors do and the effort they have put forth during the pandemic,” says Kelley. “They became highly motivated to help more people.”
And that they did. According to Kelley, the number of new clients they gathered in March was 39 percent higher than the number of new clients they had gathered in March of last year. In April, the number of new clients was up 35 percent. This means the company added more than 500 new clients in Cincinnati in a two-month stretch.
“In our industry, the focus for most advisors is investment management, not financial security. We do both,” says Kelley, noting that Northwestern Mutual is one of the largest advisory firms in the city for Assets Under Management (AUM).
“The majority of the people in Cincinnati and the U.S., in general, are income dependent, meaning that if their income stops for any reason, they have issues,” says Kelley.
There are four primary reasons why people’s income stops: 1) they get laid off or terminated; 2) they become sick or disabled with a debilitating illness that keeps them from working for a period of time; 3) they die prematurely; or 4) they retire. All financial planning, at its basic level, is making sure that those four things are covered so that, along the way, the person can achieve their goals, whether that’s paying for college, purchasing a vacation home or caring for elderly parents.
Northwestern Mutual stands out because its clients are owners of the company, meaning that they share in the profits of the company in the way of dividends. And it’s not small potatoes. In 2020, the company is expected to pay out close to $6 billion in dividends.
“What’s so positive for our clients who do financial planning with us is that the company doesn’t have to answer to shareholders or Wall Street,” says Kelley. “We don’t have to put shareholders’ needs ahead of our clients’ needs. The only people we answer to are our policyholders.”
The other thing that’s resonating with people is having an integrated plan with insurance and investments. That’s because insurance is one of the most misunderstood parts of a financial plan.
“I think most people look at insurance purely as an expense and not as a way for a family to build wealth, protect wealth and pass it on to the next generation,” says Kelley. “Our advisors are trained exceptionally well to make sure they are integrating the insurance that clients have with the investments.”
The agency is doing so well as a firm that they just signed a 10-year lease on their building, and are in the midst of a massive remodel with upgrades to technology and collaborative working space. The Northwestern Mutual team looks forward to being able to utilize that space in the future.
“I have a strong belief that when clients work with our financial advisors, they have the greatest chance to achieve financial security,” says Kelley. “It’s smart to have at least a portion of their dollars with the strongest financial company in the country. That just makes sense.”
For more information on Northwestern Mutual, call 513.366.3600 or visit Cincinnati.nm.com.