Before coming to Northwestern Mutual, Lee Howard Patterson, Jr. was playing football and earning a degree at the University of Arizona. He was sought out by a leader at Northwestern Mutual to talk about a career with the company.
In His Own Words
Football was my entry to my career at Northwestern Mutual. Now I’ve turned my passion for competition into coaching others to financial security.
Born in New York to a Honduran father and Puerto Rican mother, I moved to Phoenix in junior high school. I was a walk-on who earned a scholarship in the University of Arizona (UA) football program. I ended up playing four years of collegiate football through hard work, a hunger to succeed, and being “coachable.”
Making the Career Change
A leader in the Northwestern Mutual Phoenix office happened to see a TV interview of me following a UA football game and sought me out to talk about a career with the company.
My only business background included an internship at Nike headquarters and in the sports marketing department at UA. But I brought “coachability” to the job. I’ve been that way my whole life, whether it’s football or anything else. If you tell me to do something and tell me it will make me successful, I will do it.
I came from a humble background. I wanted a career that would allow me to be rewarded for my work ethic and enable me to make an impact on my community. I found that opportunity at Northwestern Mutual.
Today most of my clients are attorneys or other professionals and business owners. Seeing my clients achieve their financial goals keeps me motivated. It gets me so fired up to see that they take my words to heart. I think, “Hey, I put this plan in place, and now this client is in the right situation.”
I’m proud of the opportunities that this company has afforded me. I was fortunate to receive the company’s 2013 Outstanding Achievement in Recruiting and Sales Award, which recognizes leaders who do an outstanding job of balancing the dual roles of developing their office and continuing to excel in personal production.
My move into a leadership role at Northwestern Mutual seemed to progress naturally. When I started this career, I was only 22 years old. I would leave work every day at 3:30 p.m. to coach high school sports.
My managing partner decided to leverage my passion and desire for coaching, and he put me into a leadership role. I began coaching interns and really liked it. I tell my interns, “If I can do this, anyone can.” It’s the American Dream – you can go from nothing to something. Do what you’re coached to do and you can impact 100-200 people a year.
Making a Difference
Today, I teach classes at Arizona State University and mentor student athletes to prepare them for their financial futures. Many college athletes don’t graduate from college, and yet they’re probably not going to make it in the NFL. I try to help them get closer to their dreams and aspirations, whether through showing them what a career with Northwestern Mutual can offer or simply helping them achieve personal financial security.
I’m passionate about making a positive impact in the community. Some of the interns and full-time representatives at my office, along with my children and myself, will deliver food to the homeless. I also read to children at a low-income school several times a year, to show them someone from their same background can make it. I’m also proud that I was able to help create a financial-planning curriculum for college juniors and seniors, through collaboration with a local trade school.
With the Latino community, it’s all a matter of trust. A lot of people are getting really poor advice. I’m proud that I’m a leader and I’ve been able to help other people realize their dreams.
If I can coach 10 people, I can help them impact a lot of other lives. If I lit a candle across the valley, there would be corners I couldn’t reach; but if I can give a lamp to other people, they can shine their lights so that everyone has an opportunity.
Learn More About Lee Howard Patterson, Jr.
To learn more about Lee Howard Patterson, Jr., visit his website.