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Financial Planning > Behavioral Finance

The Best Measure of an Advisor Isn't AUM: Northwestern Mutual

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Forget assets under management — a better measurement of success for advisors is clients’ financial confidence, according to Evamarie Schoenborn, vice president of investment products and services at Northwestern Mutual Wealth Management Co.

“Oftentimes we talk about AUM and that’s a measurement of success in the firm, but actually it’s financial confidence of our clients that is a better measure of the success because that’s what we are helping our clients achieve,” Schoenborn told ThinkAdvisor.

Schoenborn joined Northwestern Mutual a year ago. Previously, she worked at the broker-dealer Ameriprise Financial in Minneapolis for more than 21 years.

In her current role, she’s responsible for the product lines that Northwestern Mutual advisors offer to their clients, specifically in the investment management space.

During a visit to ThinkAdvisor’s New York office, Schoenborn explained why she thinks there’s a lot of value in financial advice beyond the dollars.

“I think so often as an industry we point at AUM and oftentimes don’t talk about that impact we have on clients’ lives,” she explained. “If you have conversations with clients on what does their financial advisor mean to them, it’s not often talked about ‘he manages my money’ or ‘she manages my money.’ It’s more about the relationship they have and how that advisor makes them feel more confident about reaching their goals.”

Northwestern Mutual has done its own research recently that showed these benefits of working with advisors.

The study — which annually looks at Americans’ attitudes and behaviors toward money, financial decision-making, and the broader issues affecting long-term financial security — showed that Americans that work with an advisor feel more confident than those that do not. According to the study, 54% of those that work with an advisor feel “very financially secure” compared with 21% without an advisor.

In additional to financial confidence, Schoenborn stressed the emotional support that advisors provide to their clients.

“Probably the key to the success of these advice relationships is helping clients manage their emotion around their money and how they feel about their money and how confident they are that their financial plan will help them reach their goals,” she added.

Although the firm is predominantly known for insurance, Northwestern Mutual’s wealth management arm represents more than $125 billion in retail assets, including discretionary portfolio management for high-net-worth individuals. Across the country, Northwestern Mutual has 7,000 advisors, which includes financial professionals who sell the company’s insurance products.

“How we think about the value delivery is through the financial plan,” Schoenborn explained.

According to Schoenborn, Northwestern Mutual’s wealth management advisors work with their clients to identify their goals and then use Northwestern Mutual’s risk management products and wealth management products to solve for those needs and goals.

Right now, she said, the firm is focused on uplifting its financial advice experience and creating more interactive plans.

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