The high unemployment rate has been streaming through the minds of Americans for well over four years now. It has been used as a political grenade launcher, fodder for endless talk shows and a battleground for partisans to espouse their views. What is usually overlooked is the hiring progress that is being made in certain sectors because it does little to chip away at the seemingly immovable number. Northwestern Mutual recently announced one of its highest ever recruiting years with plans for another record year in 2013. National Underwriter Life & Health spoke with Steve Mannebach, vice president, field growth and development for Northwestern Mutual on the hiring trend.
What sparked this latest recruiting drive by Northwestern Mutual?
I would say that more than ever before people are looking for financial advice and planning advice and I think this is driven in part by the fact that over the last four years we have been on a roller coaster and people are looking for guidance at a time when they have more personal responsibility than ever before. With retirement planning shifting away from traditional pension plans from companies into defined contribution plans, I think that more than ever before we are seeing this huge demand for financial advice yet we see a declining number of people offering that advice. So, there is a problem out there that we are looking to solve and that talent gap has not been filled yet and that is why we have set record recruiting goals for ourselves for the next couple of years.
What do the so-called ‘career changers’ bring to the table?
At Northwestern Mutual we focus on organic growth and that means that we are looking for people that are inexperienced to the industry and do not necessarily have financial experience. We feel like it is important to train and teach in the manner that we go about distributing our products. So, when we talk about ‘career changers,’ the average age of our recruit is 30 years old and the median age is 37. The industry average pegged by LIMRA is 57, so, the ‘carrier changers’ I am talking about are the 28-32 year old professional accountant, attorney, or sales person, who has really capped out at an income level or their territory has been shrunk and what they bring to the table is a track record. They bring credibility, especially in the special markets of CPAs and attorneys, which we have seen a lot of because the accountant field and the lawyer field have huge surpluses. We have actually got specific targeted efforts going to those fields including the female marketplace.
Where do college age recruits fit into your recruiting model?
Over 20 percent of our recruiting is coming from college intern conversions; we are going to recruit 3,500 interns this year. These juniors and seniors in college will actually come on board with us and sell our products through joint work and coaching with other reps. When they graduate, one third of them will become full-time reps for us. They start in the business at 22 and 23 and their clientele is not all that great but we are ok with that because what happens is, we teach them to build relationships before people build wealth. We build the relationship through our planning process (we lock the competition out if we have done it right) and we grow with our client so as the client’s needs grow, that rep grows right along with them.
How are your recruiting efforts working to mitigate risks from the much-publicized graying of the workforce in the life insurance arena?