Life Insurance Is A Long Term Operation

In 2016 I was looking to get back into working for a larger organization to try to do something impactful. And I was actually on a phone screen with LearnVest at the time. And they said, well, you know, we were recently acquired by Northwestern Mutual? How do you feel about traveling to Milwaukee? Honestly, I had to look up Milwaukee because I had a feeling that it was in the Midwest. 

I was right. So then, I started to think about why on earth is it called Northwestern Mutual when it’s in the Midwest? Why isn’t it Midwestern mutual? Well, when Northwestern Mutual was founded in 1857, Wisconsin was technically in the Northwest. So, then I had to look at how old is the company. Soon, I realized that Abe Lincoln wasn’t yet president. It made me reflect on what it means to work for a company that’s that old. 

Being so old means that we have the oldest tech you can imagine. It was really cutting edge tech at the time, but then the decades keep rolling along. The trouble with the life insurance industry is if you sell somebody a whole life product, then you need to continue to service and honor the terms of that contract. Sometimes that requires the maintenance of software written in the 60s, 70s, and 80s. So that got me thinking about legacy. 

Know The Legacy

So in tech, legacy is often a bad thing. However, legacy can be a positive thing too. Like we all like want to leave behind a good legacy. So I learned the legacy of the company I worked for. Within the first 18 months, two years that the company was founded. It only had like a handful of clients. And two of those clients were on board a train that crashed. Sadly, those clients passed away.

After the tragic event, the company learned that it was unable to pay those life insurance claims. The actuaries did not account for the deaths of two clients simultaneously. So these big payouts just were not in the equation. Yet, Northwestern Mutual went out and borrowed the money to pay the claims. And that’s been part of their ethos from day one. Now, they’re super successful. So in terms of like, knowing the financial side of it and doing right by its clients financially, it’s the cream of the crop.

However, the digital transformation at Northwestern Mutual was slow. There was nothing digital to interact with for a while. We didn’t have tools for you to use during the pre-client experience. This was in 2015. Then, if we look a little deeper into the experience there was no mobile app. Plus, our website wasn’t even mobile responsive.

So how did we go from this to completely rebranding and repositioning, building out a mobile app, and top of funnel experiences? And how did we do this in an organization that’s 162 years old and that was clearly struggling and suffering and not able to navigate it. And that’s really what I want to talk to you guys about today.

About the host
Tim Holley Etsy, VP of Product
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