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Wednesday, Jul 24, 2024

Financial Services Firm Leverages ‘Past, Present and Potential’ of Employees

Northwestern Mutual Orange County Managing Director Shawn Mackey is grateful, yet not surprised the financial services firm is considered one of OC’s best places to work.

“Northwestern Mutual’s culture is built into our DNA,” Mackey said.

The company, he said, invests in its workforce by encouraging people to leverage their experiences, perspectives, and creativity to deliver the very best results for their clients and for themselves.

Mackey has been with Northwestern Mutual since 1987, building his professional career at the company first in Chicago, then in downtown Los Angeles.

In 2000, recognizing the burgeoning growth prospects in Orange County, Mackey and his team opened the Irvine location, eventually growing it into one of the top producing offices in the country.
Nestled in the heart of Southern California’s business corridor in Irvine, Northwestern Mutual Orange County is an independent affiliate of Milwaukee-based Northwestern Mutual, which has 300 offices nationwide.

The company’s financial advisers help consumers with varying personal finance matters including life insurance, credit card debt, retirement savings and estate considerations.

The OC office ranked No. 1 on the latest listing of the Best Places to Work in Orange County among medium-sized companies (see list, page 34).

The OC office counts more than 100 employees, all of which have access to a wide range of development programs aimed to propel their careers forward.

Access to Development

Development Officer Phoebe Hertz has been at Northwestern Mutual Orange County for four years, during which she’s moved upward through the company, gaining skills along with new titles.

“I’ve had access to one-on-one mentorship from higher level leaders,” Hertz said. “I’ve also been able to work with business consultants who’ve helped me develop my leadership skills. I’ve been able to find my own path here and follow it.”

Leaders like Mackey have helped foster that growth, according to Hertz.

“He can see in people things they don’t see in themselves,” she said. “He’s truly interested in people’s past, present and potential.”

Diversity, Inclusion

The company believes diversity is an important part of its career development strategy, with resource groups, advisory committees, diversity and inclusion councils and multicultural summits dedicated to fostering a workforce that represents all the communities in Orange County.

“Diversity is a business strategy,” says Mackey. “Our diversity is an outcome of our inclusiveness.”

Strategies include using social media as a tool to recruit diverse candidates by featuring videos and articles representing all communities, including personal testimonies.

The company’s senior level positions are comprised of 57% women and 43% of its employees are millennials.

Mackey encourages people of all backgrounds to pursue a career in the financial field.

“Skills are transferable,” he says.

Flexibility First

Jessica Aliotti, a wealth management adviser that has been with Northwestern Mutual for eight and a half years, previously worked as a television producer for a giant conglomerate.

After several years in that role, she sought a new career that would allow her to utilize her analytical skills in a different capacity.

She said Northwestern Mutual Orange County was the perfect fit to begin her finance career, receiving extensive training, licensing support and a workplace culture that is collaborative, team-oriented, and where everyone is interested in helping each other.

“There is a huge opportunity for women to be financial planners or in finance in general,” Aliotti says. “There are so many pathways to growth.”

Another upside to Aliotti’s career is flexibility. Over the near decade since she started her job, she married her husband Anthony and had two children, with a third child due at the end of this month.

The company has “a great work-life blend,” she said. “I have total control as to how I structure my time so I can do all the things I need to do as a mom and wife.”

This was echoed by Brian Rados, a wealth management adviser and integrated planning director who joined Northwestern Mutual Orange County in 2011.

With an eight-year-old son, Rados said the company enables him to be an involved dad and a successful professional.

At least once a month, Rados sets aside a weekday to do something special with Alexander and his wife, Anne.

“I would not have had this ability in my previous role,” he said, referring to his past career as a consultant who traveled 45 weeks a year.

Rados appreciates Northwestern Mutual is owned by policyholders, rather than by external shareholders or investors.

Unlike publicly traded companies that aim to maximize profits for shareholders, a mutual company operates with the interests of its policyholders or customers at the forefront.

“This is a great space for people who want the opportunity that has unlimited potential and the ability to help people in an incredible way,” Rados said.

Taking Care of Team

The company offers a comprehensive benefits package including health insurance, two fully funded pension plans, paid time off and other perks that prioritize employee well-being and work-life balance.

It also touts a robust employee recognition program that acknowledges and rewards outstanding performance and contributions.

Happy hours, picnics and other activities strengthen the teams’ bonds, employees said.

The company is also dedicated to making a positive impact in the community by encouraging its employees to participate in volunteer activities, encouraging camaraderie, personal growth and community involvement.

Multiple employee engagement surveys help ensure the company stays on the right track.

“Growth—professional growth, personal growth—is one of our core values,” Mackey said. “That is why our people are happy. They know the company supports them developing self-awareness and becoming the best versions of themselves.”

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Sonia Chung
Sonia Chung
Sonia Chung joined the Orange County Business Journal in 2021 as their Marketing Creative Director. In her role she creates all visual content as it relates to the marketing needs for the sales and events teams. Her responsibilities include the creation of marketing materials for six annual corporate events, weekly print advertisements, sales flyers in correspondence to the editorial calendar, social media graphics, PowerPoint presentation decks, e-blasts, and maintains the online presence for Orange County Business Journal’s corporate events.

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