Northwestern Mutual, the nation’s 7th largest independent broker-dealer by total-revenue, announced Wednesday it has hired more than 1,100 financial representatives so far this year, and nearly 3,000 financial representative interns.

This represents an 8% increase from last year, and puts the firm on pace to surpass its recruiting goal of 5,500 financial professionals by the end of this year, the largest in the company’s 156-year history.

“Our aggressive recruiting efforts stand out in today’s challenging economy, where other companies are struggling to find the resources to offer more employment,” Steve Mannebach, vice president of Field Growth and Development, said in a statement.  

While the number of new hires is hefty, most are interns with little or no experience in the industry. Of the reps recruited this year, up to 75% are career changers from other industries, according to Michael VanGrinsven, director of Field Growth and Development, suggesting that the firm may be targeting “new blood” as an alternative to the small supply of more experienced financial advisors due to a talent squeeze.

As support, the firm provides in-house training for junior advisors to make up for their lack of client-facing experience – including mentoring with seasoned advisors and a variety of continuing education and personal development opportunities to earn professional designations.

The firm’s aggressive recruiting effort by an in-house team of recruiting specialists follows a similar effort in 2012 when the company surpassed its recruiting goal of 5,000 financial advisors. The growth of the firm’s network of financial representatives, according to Mannebach, is the result of its financial strength and industry-leading dividends, which are expected to total more than $5 billion in 2013 as announced in October last year.

DEMAND FOR FINANCIAL PLANNING

The growth has also been affected by an increasing need for financial planning as a whole.

According to the company’s January online survey of 1,546 Americans, 63% believe their overall financial planning needs improvement, and 50% have no plan in place.

"These findings reinforce [the notion] that Americans need to place a greater emphasis on developing a comprehensive financial plan and work with professionals to help them stay on track for long-term financial security," says Mannebach. "[We see] a strong demand nationwide for our holistic planning approach, and our recruiting goals are a direct result of that.”

He also adds that professionals with the right background considering a new career may find that it’s an opportune time to consider the world of financial planning.

“We’ve seen a huge surge in career changers in our recruitment efforts, as they are migrating over for various reasons, whether it be lack of growth in their current position, the economy, or a cap on income,” says Mannebach. "Regardless of their background, we have seen that many bring the same core skills needed to succeed in this industry."