Northwestern Mutual to Acquire LearnVest

Northwestern Mutual says it will combine the capabilities of its adviser network with LearnVest’s digital advice delivery technology.

Northwestern Mutual announced it will acquire LearnVest, a provider of online financial planning and client experience technology. 

The partnership joins Northwestern Mutual’s financial professionals and products with LearnVest’s technology and financial planning platform.

John Schlifske, Northwestern Mutual chairman and CEO, said there has “been a gap between what consumers want and what the financial industry has been able to offer.” He suggests Northwestern Mutual will fill that gap by taking more clients “from start to finish, addressing all parts of the planning equation, and to be a partner at the center of their financial lives through all stages.”

Alexa von Tobel, founder and CEO of LearnVest, says the organization will continue to offer unbiased and affordable financial planning, now with the support and resources of Northwestern Mutual. The firm will continue serving the retirement planning marketplace in two ways—by partnering with providers, such as Fidelity and Empower Retirement (formerly Great-West), and by working directly with employers (see “A Financial Wellness Program With a Human Touch”).

Von Tobel explains that when an employer decides to partner with LearnVest for an employee financial wellness program, LearnVest creates a cobranded Internet landing page specifically for that employer’s employees. A kickoff campaign from LearnVest makes employees aware of the new benefit—which includes posters, webinars, an online Q&A, and sending a financial planner to the employer.

Employees can go to the employer-branded LearnVest portal and schedule a session with a dedicated financial planner. They answer a profile telling their financial concerns and set up a phone call with their assigned planner. “The planner will provide the employee with a 360-degree financial plan,” von Tobel says. “We tell folks what they should be doing, and the follow through is usually high.”

Dedicated advisers, according to Schlifske, are a key part of the long-term success of a financial security plan. “It’s all about the client relationship—that’s what sets us apart,” he explains. “We know from experience that consumers want a trusted, experienced professional who can provide the best product solutions, planning process and technology platforms.”

The combination of Northwestern Mutual and LearnVest brings additional capabilities consumers want, the firms suggest, especially in the areas of easy-to-use financial planning technology and holistic financial education.  

“Over time, our dynamic planning platform will be a real differentiator in the industry,” adds von Tobel, who will remain CEO of LearnVest and be chairman of the LearnVest board.  “With Northwestern Mutual’s financial backing, we can quickly empower millions of Americans and the dedicated professionals who serve them. We’re excited about truly transforming how households plan for and achieve financial security, and we will continue to unleash our innovation over the coming years.”

Northwestern Mutual has more than 4.2 million clients served by a field force of about 16,000 advisers and representatives. LearnVest currently has about 1.5 million users, over 25,000 clients under LearnVest at Work (the direct to employer product), and close to 10,000 premium clients. As the companies combine, they will seek to expand both customer bases.

The companies did not disclose financial terms. At the time of closing, LearnVest will become a wholly owned subsidiary of Northwestern Mutual and maintain its own brand and offerings.