The Future of Insurance Podcast - John Grogan

Chief Insurance Officer, Northwestern Mutual

Season 1, Episode 02, May 4th, 2021

Guest Bio

As Chief Insurance Officer, John M. Grogan is responsible for the strategy and performance of the company’s insurance businesses. This includes overall leadership of product development and innovation, product line performance, risk selection standards, and underwriting. He also serves as a member of the company’s Senior Leadership Team.

Grogan joined Northwestern as an attorney in 1992 and has worked in and held leadership roles in a variety of company disciplines, including law, insurance, distribution, operations, and investment products. He served as president
and chief executive officer of the Northwestern Mutual Wealth Management Company during the financial crisis from 2008 to 2010. In 2010, he led the integration of all support to the field across products, planning and markets.

In recent years, he has overseen the company’s service operations, innovation and venture investing, and underwriting transformation to accelerate the company’s client experience.

Highlights from the Show

  • Northwestern’s business has historically been based on in-person interactions with customers, so COVID was a big change for them
  • Despite the pandemic, Northwestern saw productivity in their field staff and the volume of business both up significantly
  • They’ve been working on accelerated underwriting for a while, but COVID accelerated the timeline for it, and for people’s adoption of the new tools and methods they’ve been working on
  • Taking away the option of traditional methods removed the remaining hesitation or resistance to change
  • Life underwriting is critical and core to who Northwestern is, so changing that is a big deal, but changing it was necessary for both dealing with COVID and for meeting customer expectations for a more modern, easier process
  • The change is to digitally-enabled, data-driven, real-time decisioning
  • Not just new tools or technology, but transforming at the very core of the business
  • Don’t look at disruption as something from the outside that happens to us, but rather something we are willing to do to ourselves from the inside
  • Northwestern has been an active investor in InsurTech around their business, looking at startups as “:team sports innovation,“ thinking about how they can provide value to the startup while getting access to new ways of doing things or new ideas
  • They invest in things in the core and well-beyond the core of their business
  • COVID muddles the picture going forward, but the pace of change is increasing, and the trend line is increasing
  • CX is ratcheting up and they’re using client experience as a competitive advantage, not just underwriting expertise
  • Product is critical, but not sufficient to win the customer of the future
  • The role of the human advisor is still critical and will be, regardless of what new tools and changes we see

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Special thanks to Medallia for sponsoring this episode.

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