John Schlifske is on a mission–big time. He wants to remake Northwestern Mutual into a company on the “leading edge of technology.” And he’s leading the way to transform Northwestern’s headquarters city, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, into a tech hub.
Wait a minute. Northwestern is in the business of selling life insurance. For 160 years it’s been helping American families grow their savings. And Milwaukee is hundreds of miles away from entrepreneurial hot spots like Silicon Valley. So how does this tech talk fit into all this?
“I think the future is around technology,” explains Schlifske, saying that Northwestern has been remaking itself into a digital platform company focused on financial planning tools and investment strategies, not only life insurance. “Just five, ten years ago, the amount of tech workers we had was the minority. We were hiring lawyers, investment professionals and actuaries. Now over half of our new jobs are technology. That’s where our business is going.”
Schlifske has been working with Wisconsin business leaders to build a technology ecosystem in Milwaukee and to attract tech talent and a start up community with entrepreneurs. He has created big venture capital funds at Northwestern to invest in tech companies. He has opened an innovation lab at the company. He has raised money for a data science institute. And he’s also making a push to improve education for school children, especially in computer science and math. He sees things are beginning to happen. Read the full story here.