Gregory C. Oberland, Northwestern Mutual

Gregory C. Oberland

Leaders in Insurance

Editors’ Note

Greg Oberland is also a member of the Management Committee at Northwestern Mutual. He joined the company in 1982 as an attorney and later he moved to the business side where he had increasing executive level responsibility for a variety of product line and operational areas. Oberland received a B.A. degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame and a J.D. degree with honors from Georgetown University.

Company Brief

Headquartered in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, with $1.2 trillion of life insurance protection in force, the Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company (www.northwesternmutual.com) has helped clients achieve financial security for more than 155 years. Northwestern Mutual and its subsidiaries offer financial security solutions including life insurance, long-term care insurance, disability insurance, annuities, investment products, and advisory products and services. Subsidiaries include Northwestern Mutual Investment Services, LLC; the Northwestern Mutual Wealth Management Company; Northwestern Long Term Care Insurance Company; and Russell Investments.

Would you give an overview of the range of products that Northwestern Mutual offers today and how it has evolved over time?

We offer our clients a path to financial security through a holistic planning process that integrates insurance and investment solutions. This approach is both defensive and offensive over the arc of a lifetime. The visual we use in talking to our clients is what we refer to as the pyramid of financial security needs. At the base of the pyramid are risk management needs and we have products that protect against unexpected events such as premature death, disability or long-term care needs.

Our financial representatives work with our clients to move up the pyramid in terms of wealth accumulation through annuity and investment products. At the top of the pyramid are wealth preservation and distribution, so after you have protected yourself against risks and have accumulated wealth, you focus on how to preserve and distribute it and we have product solutions to address these needs, including trust services.

With your 155-year history, what has kept Northwestern products so successful?

We wouldn’t be as successful as we are from a product standpoint if we didn’t focus on building long-term relationships with our clients, which average over 40 years in duration. And our products are designed to deliver value over time.

Our permanent life insurance is a great example. Over the past 20 years, the actual cash value return is 25 percent greater than our nearest competitor. That performance is driven by our investment return over time, the mortality savings over time, and the expense control of Northwestern Mutual.

Our success also comes from our ability to remain relevant to our clients in terms of this long-term relationship by having products evolve to meet their needs.

For many years, we were a life insurance company. In the 1930s, we decided that annuities were a nice complement to the life insurance products we were selling. We then ventured into disability insurance in the late 1960s because we thought protecting one’s income was important, and we had the risk management skills to be successful with that product.

We introduced long-term care insurance in 1998, which is going to be a critical product for our clients going forward, and we introduced our trust company in 2001 as people were building wealth and beginning to distribute it.

We refresh our products and will introduce new features, but we don’t chase the latest gimmick that can look attractive initially but doesn’t provide long-term value to our clients.•