Milwaukee-based Northwestern Mutual likes to maintain a steady course for its corporate operations.

The company has succeeded by avoiding sudden changes and cultivating leaders from within.

So it follows that the company recently tapped John E. Schlifske, a former president and chief executive officer of its subsidiary Russell Investments, as its new chairman and chief executive officer.

Schlifske, who joined Northwestern in 1987, has made a steady climb through the ranks. In 2004, he was appointed executive vice president, overseeing its investment products and services business. Schlifske held that post until 2008, when he took over as president and CEO of Tacoma, Wash., based Russell for one year. Last year, he was made president of Northwestern.

Schlifske will take over as CEO on July 1 and chairman and CEO on Aug. 1. He will replace Edward J. Zore as chairman and CEO. Zore will retire, but remain on Northwestern’s board.

“The overall approach is to maintain our sense of stability over time, to evolve,” said Jean Towell, a spokesperson for Northwestern.

“John Schlifske is a great leader and has the vision to make Northwestern Mutual even stronger,” Zore said in a statement. “He brings to the role a keen understanding of our business and the passion to do what’s right for our policy owners and clients.”

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Also on the move this week:

Benjamin F. Edwards & Co., based in St. Louis, hired Richard Pignone and Kim Hurd as co-branch managers for its new office in Hamden, Conn. The office is initially being staffed with A.G. Edwards alumni. Pignone will also be a vice president. Pignone and Hurd were team members at Smith Barney and the former A.G. Edwards. B.F. Edwards also hired Elizabeth McClelland, who started her career at A.G. Edwards and has worked for its successor company, Well Fargo Advisors [WFC], since. Mark Franco was hired as a senior vice president. 

Citi Private Bank [C] hired Mark Immel and Sandra Penner as managing director and director, respectively, of its San Francisco office. Immel was a senior vice president and private client advisor for U.S. Trust, Bank of America Private Wealth Management [BAC]. Penner also joins from U.S. Trust, where she was a senior vice president and private client manager.

The National Association of Personal Financial Advisors awarded Diahann Lassus the 2010 Robert J. Underwood Distinguished Service Award. The award was presented at the NAPFA national conference in Chicago last month. Lassus is a member of the national board, chaired the industry issues committee, was the 2008-2009 national chair and has been active in the Financial Planning Coalition, which pushes for a uniform standard for all financial advisors.