Success like this is meant to be shared
2021 Annual Report
Message from CEO John E. Schlifske
I'm proud to share that in 2021, we achieved our best year of business performance in Northwestern Mutual's history. As more people built financial plans last year, we saw record sales of our life insurance products and dramatic growth in clients moving their investments to Northwestern Mutual advisors. We welcomed an unprecedented number of new clients to the Northwestern Mutual family, and our team of financial professionals is among the largest—and the most diverse—we've ever seen. Plus, in 2022, our anticipated $6.5 billion1 total policyowner dividend payout will set a new company record and mark our 150th consecutive year of paying a dividend.
Your company continues to thrive—and, despite the continuing effects of a pandemic, we have never been stronger, more innovative or better able to drive our vision and free Americans of financial anxiety.
Please know that we are deeply grateful that you have put your trust in Northwestern Mutual, and we look forward to serving you and your loved ones for years to come.
John E. Schlifske
Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer
Exceptional business performance
In 2021, your company delivered its best-ever business performance, continuing to stand strong for our clients and build the company amid ongoing external disruption.
We reached $34 billion in revenue and more than $570 billion in combined assets—including over $325 billion in company-invested assets and more than $244 billion in retail investment client assets—the highest in the company's history. Your company sold a record amount of life insurance, and our retail investments business saw record net cash flows as people chose to move their money to be managed by Northwestern Mutual and our advisors.2 We declared our record total dividend payout of $6.5 billion1 while at the same time maintaining our exceptional surplus position and industry-leading financial strength.
of our clients maintained their life insurance coverage with us—our best persistency rate on record.
First-year premiums (in billions)
More people are putting their trust in Northwestern Mutual—which is the ultimate measure of success.
Unmatched financial strength
Our continued superior financial strength means you can count on us to be here for you whenever you need us. We yet again earned the highest available financial strength ratings awarded to any U.S. life insurer with a stable outlook by all of the four major rating agencies—and we are also one of the financially strongest companies in America in any industry.3
Aaa Moody's Investors Service rating
HighestMoody's Investors ServiceDecember 2022
A++ A.M. Best Company rating
HighestA.M. Best CompanyJune 2022
AAA Fitch Ratings rating
HighestFitch RatingsAugust 2022
AA+ Moody's Investors Service rating
Second HighestS&P Global RatingsJuly 2022
2021 financial results: Winning streak
2021 was the third in a series of record-breaking years for Northwestern Mutual. Our culture of taking a long-term view and focusing on outcomes to maximize policyowner value continues to yield strong performance despite the pandemic and broader economic challenges. The result? Your company is in a position of exceptional strength from which to invest in its business, adapt to future developments and provide industry-leading product value by paying the highest possible dividends while also ensuring unquestioned financial strength to fulfill our promises in the years to come.
Prepared and calculated by Northwestern Mutual.
The industry's largest dividend payout4
Our objective continues to be to pay the highest possible dividends, consistent with maintaining unquestionable long-term financial strength, in a manner guided by mutuality. Supported by a strong surplus position and excellent operating fundamentals, Northwestern Mutual is expected to pay $6.5 billion1 in dividends in 2022—a new record for the company. We will once again lead the industry in total dividends paid to life insurance and disability insurance policyowners by a wide margin.
Dividends are declared in the year indicated and paid the following year.
Record surplus growth to stay strong
Surplus is the amount of capital we hold over and above our policyowner benefit reserves to help weather unforeseen events, such as the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Given the macro-economic environment, a strong surplus helps to ensure we'll be here for the long term, paying policyowner benefits while preserving product value. Surplus also gives us the flexibility to proactively manage the company with a long-term view and pursue higher investment performance without compromising our financial strength. In 2021, we continued to build our financial strength, resulting in total surplus of more than $37 billion.5
Includes surplus notes and asset valuation reserves.
America's largest life insurer
Northwestern Mutual is the largest direct provider of individual life insurance in the United States,6 and in 2021 new life insurance sales grew at a record rate, increasing by more than 50% over 2020 and raising our total life insurance protection in place to more than $2.1 trillion. In addition, our persistency is at a record high—with 97% of policyowners choosing to maintain their life insurance coverage in 2021. This growth and persistency benefits our current policyowners, lowering per-policy costs and allowing us to focus on long-term investments that can produce stronger returns.
Exponential growth of retail investments business
More people are turning to Northwestern Mutual financial professionals. In 2021, record sales and net cash flows further expanded our retail investments business—a true credit to our unique financial planning approach that includes both insurance and investments. Client investment assets rose 25% to an all-time high of over $244 billion. And clients opened more than 300,000 new investment accounts, a 30% increase over 2020. These trends have helped make Northwestern Mutual one of the top 10 independent broker-dealers by revenue—and among the fastest growing—in the United States.7
Doing business the right way
At Northwestern Mutual, we are committed to driving the results you expect—while we operate our company in a responsible way that ensures we help communities thrive for many generations to come. We have a long-standing commitment to making a lasting impact on our society and our environment. On our website, you can find our new sustainability report that details this progress.
Strengthening our communities
At Northwestern Mutual, giving back is second nature. As a mutual company, it's what we've been doing since day one. Our employees and advisors are committed to making a difference for our neighbors across the country, and through the Northwestern Mutual Foundation, we've continued to strengthen our communities by partnering with local and national nonprofit organizations that are key to making a positive impact.
$445M+ given to our communities since 1992
given to our communities since 1992
$40M+ given to support the fight against childhood cancer
given to support the fight against childhood cancer
500K+ hours of childhood cancer research funded
hours of childhood cancer research funded
Planning the future
Delivering a personalized digital client experience is one of our top priorities—giving our clients access to both a trusted advisor and on-demand access to digital tools designed to help them meet their goals. Register your account to get instant access anytime, on any device.