Top Workplaces: Northwestern Mutual ranks as top midsize employer in Columbus

Laura Newpoff
For Columbus CEO
Northwestern Mutual is the No. 1 midsize employer in Columbus CEO's Top Workplaces awards for 2021.

When Amanda Brodzinski was a marketing major at Ohio State University in 2017, she wasn’t sure exactly what profession she’d pursue when she’d graduate a year later. She knew she wanted to be in front of people and make an impact on their lives and she considers herself fortunate that she landed an internship that allowed her to do just that.

Brodzinski spent a year and a half “test driving” a financial advising career at Northwestern Mutual’s Columbus office, and during her time, she found that the company deeply cared about her personal goals and showed an interest in involving her family in fun activities outside the typical workday.

More:Top Workplaces 2021: Here are the best places to work in Columbus

Today, Brodzinski continues to flourish at Northwestern Mutual and is deeply involved in the internship program that impacted her so greatly.

“If I’m able to have an impact on our interns and help them start their career, then they can advance and impact interns in the future,” she says. “It also expands my reach and allows me to make a bigger impact on the community.”

The internship program is a source of pride for the financial services firm. Last year, for the 25th consecutive year, Northwestern Mutual’s College Financial Representative internship program was ranked by Vault as one of the 100 best in the country.

Columbus managing partner Troy Kemelgor says the program will continue to be not only an opportunity to attract and retain top employees in a tight talent market, but a way to help more young women and those of diverse backgrounds get exposed to the field of financial planning.

“We plan to double down on our efforts [to have a top internship program] and lead in that space,” Kemelgor says. “It helps us bring in the best and the brightest to fulfill what our responsibility is. We have about $20 billion of protection and assets sitting on the books right here in central Ohio. That’s a big responsibility, and it impacts a lot of people’s lives and generational planning.”

Creating community

Northwestern Mutual’s Columbus office is part of a larger company based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Kemelgor has been in charge of the local office since 2008 and has had a keen focus on its corporate culture ever since. Though the company was founded in 1857, he describes it as youthful, with professionals like Brodzinski planting their roots and growing. The company operates under a philosophy of four core values: courage, personal responsibility, integrity and growth.

Several years ago, Kemelgor established what he describes as three “organic” groups: diversity and inclusion, community outreach and social committees. He didn’t want members of his executive leadership team to rotate through chair roles like president or vice president and instead had associates join the teams.

“We wanted to really focus on the inclusion aspect—how do people feel when they’re within our hallways,” he says. “How do they feel representing you as an organization.”

The committees are a big piece of the attraction and retention of hires. Kemelgor says Columbus has a wealth of talent, and people are attracted to places where they can do meaningful work and make an impact. The community outreach committee supports causes like the Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation for Childhood Cancer, No Kid Fights Cancer Alone, Habitat for Humanity and LifeCare Alliance.

A member of the social committee for two years, Brodzinski loved the planned events for their ability to bring everyone together, regardless of status, she says. Prior to the pandemic, there were family picnics, card tournaments and a variety of parties held at least once a month.

Pulling through

Like many companies, as the pandemic intensified in the spring of 2020, Northwestern Mutual increased communication with its associates to help ease anxiety tied to massive uncertainty. Outreach wasn’t about spreadsheets or financial forecasts but instead focused on providing support on and off the clock.

“It was about just being heard,” Kemelgor says. “The tone from the top that we intended to set and continue to convey has really helped us create an environment where people can thrive.”

The company had a record year in 2020 and has set all-time revenue records in 12 of the past 13 years, Kemelgor says. As vaccines continue to roll out, the firm will allow associates to work the way that’s most comfortable for them given the success of the prior year.

“We’ll continue to look for ways to support our associates and respect their feelings as we continue to work our way through this,” Kemelgor says. “At the same time, we’ll continue to be an organization that leads and educates central Ohio communities on the importance of financial wellness.”

Laura Newpoff is a freelance writer.

Northwestern Mutual

800 Yard St., Suite 300, Columbus

Website: northwesternmutual.com/office

Business: Financial planning services, wealth management, insurance investments and retirement planning

Managing partner: Troy Kemelgor

Employees: 163

Revenue: Would not disclose