Northwestern Mutual CEO John Schlifske announces plans to retire

After 14 years as Northwestern Mutual’s CEO and 37 years at the company, John E. Schlifske has announced his plans to retire, as of December 31, 2024, in accordance with the company’s long-standing mandatory retirement age policy.

Northwestern Mutual’s board of trustees has elected Tim Gerend, 52, to serve as the next CEO, effective January 1, 2025. As part of the leadership change, Gerend will transition from his current role as EVP, chief distribution officer and assume the position of president, Northwestern Mutual. John Schlifske will remain chairman of the board of trustees through January 2025, at which time Gerend will assume the role.

During Schlifske’s tenure as CEO, Northwestern Mutual’s exclusive distribution system grew from approximately 6,000 to nearly 8,000 advisors. Today, the company has more than five million total clients across all product lines and reported all-time high revenue in 2022 (revenue for 2023 has yet to be reported) of nearly $35 billion – an increase of more than 50% from $23 billion in 2010, when Schlifske became CEO.

The company has life insurance protection for its policyowners totaling $2.2 trillion. The company’s wealth business also experienced significant growth during this time, growing from $53 billion of total client assets in 2010 to $257 billion last year. Coupled with the company’s general account, overall Northwestern Mutual’s managed investments are more than $570 billion.

“It’s been a pleasure to serve Northwestern Mutual for nearly four decades. I have a deep sense of pride and gratitude for Northwestern Mutual, our dedicated employees and field force of advisors, and a noble mission that plays such a critical role for our clients’ financial well-being. And, with our strategic vision, commitment to mutual values, leading financial strength, and unique culture, I’ve never had more confidence in the future of this company. Tim brings a host of experiences from multiple areas of the company, and has played a significant role in the growth and evolution of our exclusive distribution – a key pillar of our company – which has grown to 8,000 financial advisors today. As a strategic, principled, and mission-driven leader, Tim has the vision and experience to lead the company as we serve generations to come.” – John Schlifske.

Gerend joined Northwestern Mutual in 2002 as an attorney. Throughout the past 22 years, Gerend had a variety of leadership roles spanning law, field compensation and planning, enterprise compliance, and campus planning. He became EVP, chief distribution officer in 2018 and is currently accountable for career distribution, marketing, and strategic communications.

“I am humbled and honored to accept the role of CEO. I’ve had a front-row seat to the efforts that have driven Northwestern Mutual to become an integrated financial security company providing insurance and wealth management offerings to our clients. John’s leadership and guidance over the years has been invaluable to me and other company leaders. I’m confident that with our talented employees and financial advisors, we will continue the momentum that John has created during his tenure.” – Tim Gerend.