Vivek Bedi is the Head of Product at LearnVest and Head of Consumer Experience Products at Northwestern Mutual. He is a passionate leader with extensive experience leading global adoption and expansion across the areas of technology, product management, sales, marketing, and operations.
“The name Northwestern Mutual was created when Milwaukee was the most northwestern part of the United States…9 years after the state of Wisconsin joined the union,” Charles Worman says with a slight chuckle. The company’s product director and unofficial historian considers how drastically the world has changed since then. “We’re a 160 year old company whose bread and butter was life insurance and risk products – but for the last 10-15 years we’ve been transforming into a holistic financial planning company.”
One of the nation’s oldest and most cherished brands has a familiar story about reinventing itself for the digital world, but with a twist. In March 2015, Northwestern Mutual acquired LearnVest, a fast-growing New York-based startup with a personal finance tracking suite. Instead of fully integrating the technology and employees into itself, Northwestern Mutual saw value in maintaining LearnVest’s entrepreneurial and digital-first approach.
“Northwestern Mutual has always had a traditional culture that really values the field advisor, being client-centric, and explaining our business principles,” explains Vivek Bedi, who is both the VP of Consumer Experience of Northwestern Mutual and the Head of Product at LearnVest. “LearnVest, on the other hand, has always been focused on brand, innovation, and design.”
Wearing two hats and sitting at the intersection of different operational models has given Bedi a unique perspective. “Together, we’ve built a blended third-culture as I like to put it. A culture that really thinks about taking risks, experimenting, but also [embracing] those core commitments from Northwestern Mutual.”
Blending these teams and bringing the cultures together has been really empowering, and that’s been really evident in some of the projects we’re working onVivek Bedi
Whereas many high-profile acquisitions seem to be more about ‘innovation theater’ than actual substance, Northwestern Mutual has eschewed the notion that old dogs can’t learn new tricks.
Worman describes how his Milwaukee-based team has embraced a fundamentally different approach to building products. “Marketing generally was calling all the shots – in terms of the technology we were using, in terms of the approach, it was very siloed.”
He gets excited as he talks about the change still taking place.
“We really stepped out of that by bringing in the engineering teams, the design teams, doing this as more of a collaborative effort,” he explains. “As we build out a cohesive digital experience, we’re not just looking at what we need internally, but looking at what consumers need.”
The magic of being customer-focused is that it also energizes employees.