The Future of Insurance Podcast – Christian Mitchell

EVP & Chief Customer Officer, Northwestern Mutual

Season 3, Episode 2, June 14, 2022

Guest Bio

Christian W. Mitchell is executive vice president and chief customer officer at Northwestern Mutual. His executive responsibilities include the company’s planning philosophy and experience, consumer insights and experience strategy, and the development of digital tools and processes to deliver a distinctive client experience throughout a client’s journey.

He serves on Northwestern Mutual’s Senior Leadership Team and sits on Northwestern Mutual’s Future Ventures investment committee.

Highlights from the Show

  • Christian wrote a piece about this moment in the middle of the night when he was stress eating a pepperoni pizza and realized that a project for a new client-centric platform that they had launched was not working as they hoped and they needed to pivot
  • The initial launch of the MVP was intended to get something out and learn quickly, which proved to be the wrong approach for something so critical to customers and advisors where they should have talked to these end users and learned more before deploying something given the stakes at play in the situation
  • By bringing their distributors into the process, you meet them where they are but also learn what they depend on daily given that they’ve worked with clients for decades, so you can learn the details and insights you would never get otherwise
  • One thing that helped them stop the path they were on and reset was why they were doing it, which wasn’t about the system ROI so much as building the right long-term way to engage with customers and drive their experience
  • Freeing them up to build the long-term solution actually allowed them to come back to some very tangible financial benefits from doing things different ways that they learned about and can enable through what they ended up building that they could never have done with their original approach
  • The culture it takes to change like this starts at the top, with CEO John Schlifske not wanting to just be a steward of the company, but rather about making the tough choices needed to set the company up for long term relevance and success
    • This was also helped by their acquisition of LearnVest, which gave them smaller company DNA and mindset when it comes to change and how to use technology
  • Bringing new thinking into the company can be about learning something, but also about changing the historical approach of building things yourself and being a closed system to one of partnerships and working with companies with better ways of doing things
  • The future of CX is wide open, with space for solving things like
    • The underwriting process in Life insurance, where what your advisor already knows about you may be sufficient to underwrite you without having to gather any other information
    • Ecosystems of solutions and partners can be curated to support your needs at different moments in your life through one central relationship
  • Christian sees technology as an ebb and flow, where it comes in and blows up or disaggregates a space, but then over time, it pulls the pieces back together again
  • If you think about incumbents vs. startups, the incumbents have so many resources and assets, but they lack the speed and agility of startups
    • If you’re not willing to acknowledge mistakes of the journey you’ve been on, you won’t get faster
    • But if you are, you can get to a point where the incumbents get so fast that there’s no room for FinTechs to disrupt them

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