The Origins of Doing the Right Thing
The frontier state of Wisconsin was only nine years old when the company opened its doors. Fewer than three years later, its leader faced a crisis when Wisconsin’s first catastrophic train accident took the lives of two policyowners. Together their claims totaled $3,500, but the little company had only $2,000 on hand.
Without hesitation, President Samuel Daggett and his fellow trustees waived the usual 90-day settlement period, personally borrowed the needed funds, and paid the claims immediately.
Northwestern Mutual’s tradition of keeping its promises was born.
Even during the dark days of the Great Depression, “there was never a time…that the Northwestern could not have met every demand that was made upon it with business promptness, in full, and without the sacrifice of a dollar of its securities,” said Michael Cleary, company president, 1932-1947.
During the tragic events of September 11, 2001, 157 Northwestern Mutual policyowners lost their lives. Not since the Titanic sank in 1912 have so many policyowners’ lives been lost in a single event. A team of senior claim specialists, accompanied by CEO Ed Zore, flew to New York as soon as air travel resumed. In the home office, colleagues canceled vacations and worked the weekend to process $125 million in claims. Most were paid within five days after we received the claim.
While technology, transportation, demographics, regulations, and the speed of business — indeed the speed of life — have changed and accelerated since 1857, two things remain constant. People want to provide financial security for their loved ones. Financial strength is the cornerstone of any company designed to help them do that.
Over the years, Northwestern Mutual has continually demonstrated its commitment to doing the right thing for those who place their trust in the company. We remain true to a governing philosophy that puts mutuality and fairness first.
To ensure that the company stays in tune with its clients, each year since 1875, a group of our policyowners has been invited to examine the workings of the company and to complete a report which is published — unedited — in the company’s annual report.