Greg Oberland, president of Northwestern Mutual, to retire

LearnVest founder Alexa von Tobel promoted to senior VP, chief innovation officer


Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Co. president Gregory Oberland will retire this summer after 36 years with the Milwaukee-based life insurance company.

The Northwestern Mutual Tower and Commons office building in downtown Milwaukee.

The company announced Oberland’s retirement as part of a larger announcement of several promotions and senior-level appointments on Friday.

Oberland has been president of Northwestern Mutual since 2014. He joined the company in 1982 as an attorney and later moved to the business side, where he took on increasing executive level responsibility over the years. Prior to becoming president, he was executive vice president of sales, products and marketing.

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John Schlifske, chairman and CEO of Northwestern Mutual, was unavailable to comment on Oberland’s retirement Friday, but spokeswoman Betsy Holyman released this statement:

“…yesterday at our Employee Town Hall John Schlifske personally thanked Greg for his outstanding 36-year career with Northwestern Mutual, and he commended Greg for his great leadership that has spanned both our home office and financial advisors.”

The Milwaukee Repertory Theater also announced Friday that Oberland has been elected to a two-year term as board president. He has served on the Rep’s board for five years.

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Prompted by Oberland’s upcoming retirement, Tim Gerend, senior vice president of career distribution, has expanded his role to now lead the company’s distribution performance and development, field strategy and integration, planning and sales, and field rewards departments, the company said.

Among the other senior appointments announced Friday, Alexa von Tobel, the founder and chief executive officer of the online financial planning firm Northwestern Mutual acquired three years ago and recently decided to shut down, has been promoted to senior vice president and chief innovation officer. von Tobel was previously appointed chief digital officer at Northwestern Mutual after its acquisition of her company, LearnVest. The insurance giant acquired the fintech startup in 2014 for a reported $250 million.

von Tobel has retained her title as CEO of LearnVest and has remained based out of New York since the acquisition. Under the acquisition, the startup became a wholly owned subsidiary of Northwestern Mutual while retaining its brand.

Emilia Sherifova, chief technology officer of LearnVest, who also joined Northwestern Mutual as an executive officer and vice president following the acquisition, has now been promoted to senior vice president and chief technology officer.

Northwestern Mutual’s acquisition of LearnVest has been credited with catalyzing Northwestern Mutual’s shift in recent years from a traditional life insurance company to a financial services company with a greater focus on innovation and digital tools.

von Tobel’s promotion at Northwestern Mutual follows the company’s decision to discontinue two of LearnVest’s core products.

When Northwestern Mutual announced plans to shut down Learnvest’s planning services for customers and its employer plan for businesses, the company touted the move as the “next step in integration” with the fintech startup, and said LearnVest will re-launch later this year “as a fresh, digital resource.”

Hoylman responded to inquiries on Friday regarding the status of LearnVest, including the timeline for its relaunch and the impact on its employees, with the following statement:

“We’re continuing to work on the next phase to launch later this year, but don’t have a specific timetable to share.”

Other promotions announced by Northwestern Mutual today include:

  • Aditi Gokhale has been promoted to senior vice president, in addition to being chief marketing officer.
  • Christian Mitchell has been promoted to senior vice president-investment products and services, in addition to being CEO of Northwestern Mutual Wealth Management Co.
  • Beth Rodenhuis, senior vice president, has also been named chief transformation officer, continuing to oversee corporate strategy and the company’s transformation office.

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