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Northwestern Mutual promotes LearnVest executives after shutdown

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Three former LearnVest executives, including founder and CEO Alexa Von Tobel, have received promotions a month after Northwestern Mutual temporarily shut down the digital platform to further integrate it into the company.

The promotions come alongside three other executive-level promotions at the Milwaukee-based insurance giant and No. 6 independent broker-dealer.

“We are committed to leading our industry by transforming the way clients experience financial security, and these leaders are critical in driving our strategy,” Northwestern Mutual CEO John Schlifske said in a statement. "This move brings together both deep experience in delivering on our business fundamentals and accelerating innovation and growth."

Von Tobel, who founded LearnVest in 2009 and sold the startup to Northwestern Mutual for more than $250 million in 2015, has been promoted to chief innovation officer and senior vice president. She also remains CEO of LearnVest, which is slated to relaunch later this year as a financial education website.

Former LearnVest chief marketing officer Aditi Gokhale, who is now Northwestern’s CMO, will also receive the senior vice president title, and Emilia Sherifova, the onetime chief technology officer of LearnVest, will move up to the CTO role for all of Northwestern Mutual. Sherifova, who previously served as vice president for architecture and engineering, will be the first woman to hold the CTO role at Northwestern.

Thirteen of the top 25 companies generated double-digit growth in 2017 as rivals close in on the perennial No. 1 firm.
June 4

The moves, which also include the retirement of President Greg Oberland, become effective starting in July. After 36 years with Northwestern, Oberland will leave four departments under the direction of Tim Gerend. Christian Mitchell, the current CEO of Northwestern’s wealth management unit, received a promotion to senior vice president for investment products & services.

The firm also made Beth Rodenhuis, a 23-year Northwestern veteran, its chief transformation officer. Overall, the number of women Northwestern has appointed to senior roles, such as current Investment Services President Evamarie Schoenborn, stands out in a predominately male industry.

The share of women in senior leadership roles at financial services firms remained stagnant at 29% between 2007 and 2015, according to a November study by the U.S. Government Accountability Office. Meanwhile, for two years in a row, personal financial planners have reported the widest gender pay gap of all professions tracked by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

LearnVest closed earlier this month, and the firm’s website still displays the under construction message it posted last month. Representatives for Northwestern said the firm is working on the relaunch but had no specific timetable to share.

“This move will allow us to focus resources and leverage Northwestern Mutual’s established nationwide network of financial advisors, using the cutting-edge planning platform and digital tools that we’ve created together,” the firm said when it closed LearnVest’s digital planning and employer services.

Northwestern Mutual’s 5,138 producing representatives generated $945.4 million in revenue in 2017, the firm disclosed in Financial Planning’s annual FP50 survey. The firm took in the third-highest share of fee-based revenue, at $628.5 million or 67%, of any IBD.

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