Career longevity can seem like some mythical, impossible goal for people who are entering the workforce these days. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that the average person will change careers 10 to 15 times during his or her career and will stay an average of 4.6 years with one employer. Northwestern Mutual works to create a long-term career path for financial representatives from the moment they walk in the door. The firm — offering wealth management services as well as life and disability insurance — offers training, mentoring, and resources that ensure new financial representatives’ long-term success.
Mark Kull, a Financial Advisor with Northwestern Mutual at the firm’s downtown Louisville office, had long-term plans in mind when he joined the firm. While a freshman business major at the University of Louisville, an upperclassman in his fraternity encouraged him to consider an internship with Northwestern Mutual. Kull quickly learned that it was a prestigious opportunity, named to the Vault Guide’s list of Top 10 Best College Internships since 1997, among other accolades.
“I went to one interview and was so impressed that I walked out and told myself, ‘This is what I was going to do for the rest of my life.’” Kull interned with Northwestern Mutual during his sophomore, junior, and senior years and joined the company as a full-time advisor full-time immediately after graduating in 2006.
“What attracted me to financial services was the fact that it was a world where your pay is connected to career performance,” Kull says. “I owned a lawn service with a friend in high school. I learned I liked working for myself. I had one career in college where I got an hourly wage and I knew I wasn’t going to be good fit because no matter how hard I worked that day, this was all I’m going to get paid. I was attracted to the idea of being compensated by my effort.”
Northwestern Mutual at work
Unlike many of its competitors, Northwestern Mutual is not publicly traded, and is one of the last mutual companies still in existence in the United States. That means the team of financial advisors can focus solely on their clients. “Every decision is made with clients in mind because we don’t have to satisfy stockholders,” Kull says. “We’re on the same side of the table as the clients, not having to worry about what Wall Street thinks of our quarterly earnings statement. It creates a mutually beneficial structure that appeals to me.”
Kull also touts the firm’s philosophy for helping clients achieve financial security. “Northwestern Mutual was one of the first major planning firms to embrace comprehensive financial planning and wealth management. We believe getting to know a client and their goals, then talk about the products we have available. A lot of other financial services firms would talk about the products first.”
Financial services is a competitive field, both for careers and for clients. Kull acknowledges that it’s a leap of faith to enter a straight commission world, but Northwestern Mutual has a strong team and process in place to help new advisors get started. “People get scared when they think about financial services until the residual income gets built up,” he says. “When you get started, you might feel like you’re putting in a disproportional amount of work, but it really pays off. Our Chief Marketing Officer Meg Gatti, helps you build your personal marketing plan, and you learn how to build your client base. They give you so much support in those activities.”
Financial professionals at Northwestern Mutual also benefit from a team approach to serving clients. Kull works closely with Associate Financial Representatives Jason Sterrett and Karoline Santos, who work diligently on fostering client relationships and the financial planning process. Along with his Northwestern Mutual teammates, Kull makes time to support the Fund for the Arts and Kosair Children’s Hospital, and also serves on the Crossing Generations board of the American Red Cross.
Even with the daily support, and even after an estimated 9,700 face-to-face client meetings, Kull says every day on the career is a challenge and an opportunity. “I absolutely hate rejection. I still get nervous every time I dial the phone. But if I don’t pick up the phone and call a potential client, they might never meet anyone who will help them.
There’s no telling what kind of trajectory their life might have,” he says. “In 12 years of doing this, I’ve had two clients pass away under the age of 40 and I’ve had several clients who have become disabled. I really want people to know the sense of peace that comes with having a financial plan and having someone you can trust help you achieve it. I feel a deep conviction to give them everything I’ve got.”
Whether they’re laddering in from other fields or coming straight out of college, Kull says Northwestern Mutual offers good candidates the tools to succeed in the financial services field. “You really are building a business here,” he says. “If you’re thinking about being an entrepreneur, the barriers to entry and cost to enter are extremely high. I’d encourage someone to do it within a framework of a proven track record and model, and with huge earning potential. Bet on yourself at least once.”
To learn more about working alongside Mark Kull and the Northwestern Mutual team here in Louisville, email Elizabeth Rivers.
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