From buttoned up to up to date: Northwestern Mutual’s space brings financial planning into the future
Northwestern Mutual’s new Indianapolis office reflects the evolution of financial planning.
After 30 years of serving clients from a downtown location, Northwestern Mutual’s Indianapolis team decided to relocate to the north side of the city. The move gave Northwestern Mutual an opportunity to resolve the limitations of their previous space and position the firm for the future.
Moving forward, together
According to Catherine (Catty) Dietrick, Director of Human Resources at Northwestern Mutual, the team not only wanted to change their space—they wanted to shift the way they worked.
“Even prior to COVID, we were shifting to virtual meetings, using new technology, and going paperless,” Catty said. “Our space needed to reflect the evolution of the industry and our offices.”
The team also wanted to create opportunities for collaboration and improve the employee experience.
“In our previous location, we were unintentionally siloed because of our physical space,” Catty said. “You could go a week without interacting with anyone from a different department.”
Leah Burton, Director of Philanthropy and Executive Services at Northwestern Mutual, said the goal was “to move from a buttoned-up space to an open, collaborative environment” that supported talent attraction and retention by providing choices on where and how to work.
“Often you’ll find that people don’t want to sit at their desk all day and are more productive when they change their environment,” Leah said.
Experienced partner, positive experience
Having been in their previous environment for decades, Northwestern Mutual needed an experienced furniture partner that would guide them through the process.
“The team had never gone through this before and wanted to give their staff a space they’d be happy with for a long time,” said Megan Minnich, Senior Designer at OfficeWorks.
“From the first meeting, we knew we wanted to work with OfficeWorks,” Leah said. “The team took on our project as if it were their own office. When we told them what we wanted to achieve, they got really jazzed about what furniture would meet our needs. It was nice to work with partners that were just as excited as we were. It wasn’t a business transaction—it was a fun experience.”
That experience included visiting the MillerKnoll Design Yard and Greenhouse in Holland, Michigan. The visit helped the OfficeWorks/MillerKnoll team gain a richer understanding of Northwestern Mutual’s needs while helping Leah and Catty get a better grasp on all their options.
“On average, Northwestern Mutual interviews 200 candidates to hire just one advisor, and they invest heavily in training and onboarding,” said Nancy Ramsey, Senior Market Manager at MillerKnoll . “Our entire experience with Northwestern Mutual was based on their business needs for the new space to attract and retain talent, share knowledge, and maintain their superior brand of stability for clients and investors.”
“The team provided insights and helpful research that guided our decisions,” Leah said. “They also brought in sample workstations so people could touch, feel, and experience what their workspaces would be like. That helped put minds at ease about the personal space and storage they would have in our new office.”
Northwestern Mutual’s new space reflects their collaborative culture, provides a variety of experiences, and offers flexibility for growth.
“It’s amazing how functional our new office is,” Leah said. “It looks awesome, but also accommodates what we need, as well as what our clients need.”
In client-facing areas, the furniture contributes to a positive first impression and enhances the experience, both for clients and visiting advisors from around the region.
The conference room floor features a variety of furniture—from standing-height ‘guitar pick’ Exclave tables to a formal, glass-topped table. The approach allows advisors to select spaces that fit their preferences and the nature of their meetings.
“Each conference room has a different feel, so it’s fun to see which spaces people choose, and it’s nice to hear how they appreciate the variety,” Catty said.
Employees also have choices when it comes to where they work throughout the day.
“From the collaborative tables in front of work areas to the different rooms, it’s incredible to watch people bustle about the office and find what’s best for them,” Leah said. “Having different places for people to work is by far the coolest aspect of this space.”
Catty said the new layout de-emphasizes the notion of aspiring to be in a private office by providing a more open floorplan that reflects the evolution of individuals and the firm.
“We’ve received feedback from longtime employees who were hesitant early on but talk about how much they love the space and needed the change,” she said.
According to Nancy, the success of the project is a result of Northwestern Mutual’s trust in the OfficeWorks/MillerKnoll team and a shared passion for the outcome.
“Northwestern Mutual and MillerKnoll both have rich histories, with founders committed to the wellbeing of their people,” Nancy said. “Those shared values and the synergy between our teams resulted in a great space.”
“When a client takes the time to really think through their challenges and explore the possibilities, it comes through in the results,” added Camille Inchauste, Account Executive at OfficeWorks. “Northwestern Mutual was excited about the process, open to ideas, and energized by their new space. It doesn’t get any better than that.”
Interior Design: Schott Design
General Contractor: Burnside Construction
Project Management: Jones Lang LaSalle