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Senior Director, Advisor Practices Ideation & Competitive Intelligence

At Northwestern Mutual, we are strong, innovative and growing. We invest in our people. We care and make a positive difference.


At Northwestern Mutual, our vision is to deliver financial security to help our clients live their best lives by choice. A key pillar of our vision and success is our strong, vibrant sales force. This role sits within Career Distribution (CD), which is at the forefront of working across the home office and sales force as one team to achieve the sales and growth objectives the company expects, while delivering the experience our distribution needs and deserves.

The Advisor Practices Department at Northwestern Mutual is focused on helping our most productive and successful advisors build, grow, and transition their practices at NM, while delivering a distinctive and excellent client experience. Within Advisor Practices, the Ideation & Competitive Intelligence team will provide ideation thought leadership and support to facilitate better identification, evaluation, and synthesis of opportunities to advance Advisor Practices competitive strategy and new offerings.

Reporting to the Sr. Director, Advisor Practices, the Sr. Director, Advisor Practices Ideation & Competitive Intelligence is responsible for business leadership and day-to-day execution of the Ideation & Competitive Intelligence department function; developing and executing on a strategic direction for the function; and supporting related strategic and tactical work as required. This role will work with Advisor Practices department leadership, enterprise partners, and industry experts to formalize and mature how we capture, assess, and prioritize new opportunities—whether identified by the home office, the field, or through critical analysis of the competitive landscape.  Potential opportunity types can include new technologies or tools, organizational frameworks, operational improvements, competitor offerings, etc.

The Senior Director will develop and administer an intake process and evaluation mechanism for new opportunities, including serving as the sponsor for potential opportunities as they are assessed. It will be critical that this role stays connected with business stakeholders across Northwestern Mutual to ensure alignment and partnership as opportunities are prioritized. The role will serve as the point of contact for new ideas that percolate up within the enterprise and from the field (particularly among our most sophisticated advisors and teams).  The role will also leverage relationships with Northwestern Mutual competitive intelligence and innovation functions and industry experts as part of opportunity identification, incubation, assessment, and prioritization.

Successful execution of this role will enable the Advisor Practices department to be more responsive to the needs of our field constituents and to better capitalize on competitive opportunities.  The Senior Director will accomplish this by applying a disciplined process to identify, qualify, and pursue innovative ideas that put our most sophisticated advisors and teams in a position of strength as they serve their clients and grow their businesses.


  • Define, operationalize, and administer a well-structured mechanism to solicit and capture new ideas; evaluate, elaborate, and validate or filter them out; prioritize and hand off for execution; and track and report on the backlog and in-progress opportunities to key stakeholders (including the field).  Must ensure scalable and repeatable processes in partnership with enterprise centers of excellence, and develop and execute the necessary communication and change management activities to implement the new processes.

  • Serve as the “opportunity sponsor” for potential opportunities, advocating for it on behalf of the field, the enterprise, and/or the Advisor Practices department.  This sponsorship will outline business objectives and success measures, and participate in prioritization discussions where appropriate.  This will include partnering with enterprise stakeholders to conduct a right-sized assessment of cost vs. benefits, demand, strategic alignment, impact analysis, and high-level implementation effort.

  • Cultivate and leverage cross-enterprise, field, and industry partnerships that will provide ideation and competitive intelligence inputs in context of department objectives, and ensure alignment and collaboration on overlapping or adjacent initiatives.  This role will require the building and maintenance of constructive, trusted relationships with key members of the field and field leadership.

  • Business leadership and day-to-day execution of the Advisor Practices Ideation & Competitive Intelligence function, in alignment with department and Career Distribution strategic objectives.  May include people leadership of a small team as demand requires in the future.

  • Support the needs of Advisor Practices department initiatives as it relates to “seeing around corners” via competitive intelligence and ideation—in partnership with enterprise partners.

  • Bring thought leadership and a strategic mindset to key department challenges, specifically around how to identify and assess new competitive opportunities, but also other topics as required.

  • Represent Advisor Practices across the enterprise as the department point of contact for newly surfaced ideas from the field, and as the liaison with enterprise competitive intelligence functions.

Bring your best! What this role needs:  

  • Bachelor's degree in business, strategy, consulting, or related field or an equivalent combination of education and/or progressively responsible work experience.

  • Minimum ten years of progressively responsible experience in financial services or other business, strategy, or distribution functions, with experience in business consulting, field operations, digital product / technology, or the RIA market a preferred skillset.

  • Strong leadership, critical thinking, problem solving, and communications skills are required.  Candidate must have a strong process orientation, able to stay organized and on top of myriad competing priorities.

  • Intellectual curiosity and relational mindset. Unconventional thinker that's unafraid to share an opinion, but is able to "disagree and commit" where required.

  • Ability to build productive relationships and influence without direct authority (home office, 3rd parties, and field).  High degree of EQ and demonstrated empathy for sophisticated practices’ experiences, with the ability to manage expectations and push back on the field if needed without impacting the relationship.

  • Ability to interrogate, unpack, and understand enough of an ambiguous problem to deconstruct and begin executing without heavy oversight, while continuously addressing whether to adjust based on learnings.

  • Ability to look beyond the status quo, identify or elicit unconventional solution options, and be tactfully bold in testing hypotheses.



This job is not covered by the existing Collective Bargaining Agreement.

Required Certifications:

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We are an equal opportunity/affirmative action employer and all qualified applicants will receive consideration for employment without regard to race, color, religion, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, national origin, disability, age or status as a protected veteran, or any other characteristic protected by law.

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We’re excited about the potential people bring to Northwestern Mutual. You can grow your career here while enjoying first-class perks, benefits, and commitment to diversity and inclusion.