Northwestern Mutual: LearnVest’s legacy lives on

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For Northwestern Mutual, digitization imperatives have forced it to think more like a tech company. It’s achieved this by way of internal reorganization and acquisition.

In particular, the path to developing more online tools included the acquisition of digital financial planning company LearnVest in 2015 for $250 million. Despite critics who allege that Northwestern Mutual overpaid for the acquisition, the company said its digital capabilities have been boosted by it.

According to the company, though LearnVest  was shut down last October, the financial institution has continued to use LearnVest’s financial planning technology in digital engagement efforts with clients. LearnVest’s old website now redirects to Northwestern Mutual’s Life & Money section, where potential customers can read articles about personal finance and calculate life insurance rates.

“The combination of LearnVest and Northwestern Mutual will address those needs by providing our clients a better financial planning experience and enabling our financial professionals to deliver trusted financial advice to more people who need it,” said John Schlifske, Northwestern Mutual’s CEO, in a statement.

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Northwestern Mutual’s digital revamp also consisted of growing customers’ online engagement with the brand. Prior to the digital revamp, three out of four online visitors would leave the site before searching for more information, according to Vivek Bedi, vice president of digital product. Northwestern Mutual’s online portal now features external account aggregation, budget and spending insights, as well as secure and easy document sharing. The bank has developed mobile banking apps for iOS and Android and a “sleek” public-facing website for potential clients, the company noted.

“We are investing in ways to transform and enhance our client experience, and it’s become increasingly digitized over the last three years,” said a company spokesperson, noting that customers can now view detailed product information, run reports and take self-service actions.

The company also has looked to other industries, particularly digital commerce, to influence its digital product designs.  During a presentation at Finovate in New York in September, Bedi noted that popular dating websites (including were influences on digital tools the company rolled for customers seeking financial advisers. Akin to “Tinder for financial services,” as some other institutions have rolled out, the company introduced a social media element to customer acquisition.

Looking ahead, the company plans to speed up development and product release times. “We have scaled to approximately 30 teams and have increased releases from less than 100 releases to more than 4,000 this past year,” the company noted. “This new way of working focused on user research, failing fast and shadowing our clients and advisors has been instrumental in our success.”

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