I sat down and talked to Jon Cross recently, and he told me all about his role at Northwestern Mutual. He said that his role is a hybrid role. About 70% of his time is spent as a financial adviser. In that capacity, he said he meets with clients, helps them set their long range, personal, professional, and financial goals, and then helps them work on ways to achieve those goals. The other time is spent as a managing director at Polaris. He is responsible for recruiting their financial advisers and developing new financial advisers.
When asked why he likes to hire interns, he said, “Simply put, it is our single most important recruiting strategy.” What he has found is that most industries put their interns behind the scenes. What Northwestern Mutual does is they put their interns in front of the client, help them develop their communication and interpersonal skills, and this helps the interns because then we know how they work, and they are more confident in their job. Over 50% of the field directors, managing partners, etc. were all interns, so their internships tend to lead to leadership development.
Primarily, interns will take the role of a financial adviser. They call on prospective clients, and ask them to sit down and meet with them so they can learn about their financial status. They then work with a veteran adviser and they figure out a plan for that client, and then talk to the client about that plan. It’s basically walking the client through the financial planning cycle from basic goal setting to implementation.
We take students from Otterbein, Ohio Wesleyan, and OSU. However, Mr. Cross likes to work with Otterbein students because he says that he can relate to the liberal arts background, and appreciates Otterbein's commitment to developing well-rounded students. Mr. Cross believes that the general engagement level, socially and otherwise, is very high at Otterbein. He looks for students who are involved in many different activities, and it’s easier to find someone like that at Otterbein than at a larger campus.
Mr. Cross’s advice to students during the application process and interview is to not be over polished. Most of his hiring decisions are based on a combination of the notes he takes in the interview, and the gut feeling that he walks away with. Mr. Cross said, “If you were able to carry the conversation and be engaging, in my world, that goes a long way. I instantly connect with someone who is open and vulnerable, because I know they are being real with me.”
Once you obtain the internship, Mr. Cross advises finding a mentor in the company. Also, you should try to set meaningful goals and hit them. If you’re an intern, there’s usually a supervisor who will help you set those goals. And make sure to hit them, because then you know you’re getting something out of it.