Northwestern Mutual announces executive leadership changes

Northwestern Mutual Chairman, President and CEO John Schlifske announced senior leadership changes that position the company for long-term success by providing growth and development opportunities for key talent.

The leadership change comes as John Grogan, executive vice president and chief insurance officer, announced that he will retire on June 30, 2023 after serving an extraordinary 31-year career with the company, including being on the senior leadership team since 2014. Grogan joined the company in 1992 as an attorney and has held several leadership roles across law, insurance, distribution, operations, and retail investments. Notably, he served as president and chief executive officer of the Northwestern Mutual Wealth Management Company during the financial crisis from 2008 to 2010. Most recently, Grogan led the company’s insurance function during the COVID-19 pandemic, resulting in the team managing historic volumes of business and enabling record sales years for the company in addition to the transformation of underwriting from a process based on paper records and multi-week cycle times to one that is increasingly based on data and enables an improved client experience. He also serves as executive sponsor of the company’s Women’s Employee Resource Group and on the boards of The Medical College of Wisconsin and LIMRA/LOMA Global.

Kamilah Williams-Kemp, currently vice president of risk products, will succeed Grogan and be promoted to executive vice president and chief insurance officer, reporting to Schlifske and will join the company’s senior leadership team. In this role, she will be responsible for the strategy and performance of the company’s risk products and market development, underwriting, client advocacy and claims.

“John has been a strategic partner to me and an influential business leader who has navigated dynamic environments with an unwavering focus on what’s best for our clients and policyowners,” stated Schlifske. “I want to thank him for his leadership, expertise, and significant contributions across the company and industry for more than three decades at Northwestern Mutual, including developing strong talent and fostering our culture and company values.”

Schlifske added, “Kamilah is uniquely qualified to lead the insurance organization as she brings significant experience and depth of knowledge after serving in multiple insurance and annuity product lines and underwriting leadership roles,” stated Schlifske. “Her promotion represents a deep bench of talented leaders at Northwestern Mutual, underscoring our commitment to developing talent who play a critical role to our company’s success.”

Williams-Kemp joined Northwestern Mutual in 1999 and has held numerous leadership roles across the company, including human resources, new business, underwriting operations and career distribution. Most recently, she led risk products where she navigated the introduction of multiple new risk products and product enhancements that drive the company’s competitiveness in the marketplace. She received her Bachelor’s degree from Northwestern University and an M.B.A from The University of Chicago Booth School of Business. She is a member of the global Executive Leadership Council, and serves on the boards for Rogers Behavioral Health System, the African American Leadership Alliance of Milwaukee (AALAM), and Rocketship Public Schools in Milwaukee.

Leaders with New Accountabilities

The company is also announcing the following executive leadership changes within the insurance organization:

Chris Behling, recently became vice president – underwriting, adding to his accountabilities as head of risk selection standards, reporting to Grogan. He joined the company in 2021. Behling has a Bachelor of Arts in Economics and Management from Albion College, and a Masters of Theological Studies from Harvard University, The Divinity School.

Jason Handal, currently vice president – risk product line strategy and discovery, will become vice president of risk products, succeeding and reporting to Williams-Kemp. He joined Northwestern Mutual in 2003 and has held roles in distribution growth ventures, distribution performance, advanced markets, and law. He received a Bachelor’s degree and a law degree from Marquette University.

Cheri McCourt, recently became vice president – claims, reporting to Grogan after serving several years as an attorney for insurance products, underwriting, service and claims for the company. She joined Northwestern Mutual in 2014. McCourt received a Bachelor’s degree from Carroll University and a law degree from Valparaiso University School of Law.

Becki Williams, vice president of advanced markets, will assume additional accountabilities and continue to report to Williams-Kemp. She joined Northwestern Mutual in 1995. Williams received a Bachelor’s degree and M.B.A. from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and a Master’s of Science in International Business from the ESSEC Business School in France.