'Building a trusting team is paramount'

  • Ryan Kramer

    Ryan Kramer

Updated 8/19/2021 5:08 PM

Q: Describe your company.

A: Northwestern Mutual Chicagoland is a full-service financial security firm. We are backed by a more than 160-year-old company that helps people and businesses with all aspects of financial planning to help them reach their goals.


Our firm has offices in Downers Grove, Naperville, Schaumburg and River North on Michigan Avenue. We are made up of over 100 advisers and total over 260 employees. We manage over $7 billion of assets locally and our national firm has over $300 billion in total assets.

Q: Do you plan to hire any additional staff or make any significant capital investments in your company in the next year?

A: Yes, we hire financial advisers, financial adviser interns and staff partners throughout the year. In fact, in 2020 we added people to our firm despite the pandemic. Not only did we hire, but 2020 was our best year ever.

Q: What will your company's main challenges be in the next year?

A: The continual balance of back to office and live meetings in the office vs. virtual Zoom meetings. Zoom has created an efficient communication option that will help moving forward, but our business is key on building relationships, and those are fostered better face to face.

Q: What's the hottest trend in your industry?

A: While it's not new, fee-based financial planning is still a growing trend. More and more advisers offer this, but it is not essential to building a robust financial plan for our clients.

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Q: If you had one tip to give to a rookie executive, what would it be?

A: Listen, ask questions, continue to learn and pour into your team. Lastly, building a trusting team that can communicate effectively is paramount.

Q: Do you have a business mantra?

A: Have a great attitude and work hard. Focus on what you can control, and the rest will follow.

Q: From a business outlook, whom do you look up to?

A: I have been fortunate to have many leaders within our company and local firm that I am still learning from.

Q: What is one interesting fact about you or your company that most people may not know?

A: Personally, my nickname is Kozmo and it came from the Seinfeld show.

Also, all three of our kids were born in three different states, not including Illinois, even though Jen and I have lived in Illinois most of our lives.


Q: Was there a moment in your career that didn't go as you had planned? What lesson did you learn from it?

A: Yes, I was not appointed as the managing director of an office that I thought was mine. This helped me to understand what was required and what I needed to do to get there. It motivated me to be better instead of feeling resentful. Fortunately, it led to a further path to success.

Q: What do you like to do in your free time?

A: I love spending time with family and friends. I enjoy many hobbies with my wife, Jen, and our kids, and I have been fortunate enough to coach several of their sports teams. I also enjoy playing basketball and golf.

Q: What book is on your nightstand?

A: Atomic Habits by James Clear and Is This Anything? By Jerry Seinfeld. Clear has done an outstanding job helping people see that small incremental changes can build to major growth over time. Seinfeld continues to prove he is one of the all-time greats.

Q: What keeps you up at night?

A: Not much besides our puppy, Koko. Workwise, attracting and developing new financial advisers and removing roadblocks for our career advisers. We have an amazing career and opportunity to help others while building their ideal lifestyle. It is too bad that not enough people really understand how good it really is.

Q: If you were not doing this job, what do you think you would be doing?

A: This is a great question because I have been with the same firm for 23 years, which is my entire career. I built one resume in my life (at ISU) and never had to make a second. With that said, I would be in sports management or in Hollywood as an actor ... or at least that's my dream. I always thought I could be a Jerry Maguire or a George Clooney. My wife rolls her eyes when I say that.

Q: What was your first paying job?

A: Walking beans, 12 years old, 7 a.m.-noon, daily in the hot summer sun, knocking down weeds in a bean field. $5 an hour and I am glad I learned about hard work early on.

Q: If you could put your company name on a sports venue, which one would you choose?

A: Soldier Field. I'm a lifelong Bears fan and from Decatur, the original home of the Bears.

Q: Two people to follow on Twitter and why. (besides your company)

A: Malcolm Gladwell and Adam Grant, both great thinkers, researchers and writers. I love their books.

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