Edward J. Zore

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Chief executive officer and president, The Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company

Nationality: American.

Born: 1945, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Education: University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee, bachelor's and master's degrees.

Family: Married Diane (maiden name unknown); children: two.

Career: Northwestern Mutual, 1969–1990, various positions in the investment department; 1990–1998, chief investment officer; 1995–1998, CFO and executive vice president; The Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company, 1998–2000, executive vice president; 2000–2001, president; 2001–, CEO and president.

Address: The Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company/Northwestern Mutual, 720 East Wisconsin Avenue, Milwaukee, Wisconsin 53202-4797; http://www.nmfn.com.

■ Edward Zore rose to become the CEO and president of The Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company, one of the largest providers of insurance as well as wealth management and business planning. Zore adhered to Northwestern Mutual's core beliefs in growing organically through increasing product sales and in maintaining loyalty among employees and clients through top-notch benefits and follow-through. Considered by friends and coworkers to be funny and fair, Zore recognized the positive aspects of working for one the longest-standing and most successful insurance and financial-services providers in the United States.


Zore grew up outside of Milwaukee in the working-class suburb of West Allis. While studying economics at the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee, he worked at a grocery store to support himself. He earned both a bachelor's and a master's degree in economics by 1970; the year before he had already begun working for Northwestern Mutual as a stock trader. Eager to assume new responsibilities, and with his long-term sights reportedly set on the top spot, Zore gradually rose through the ranks of the investment division. After more than 25 years there Zore transferred to the life and disability insurance division. In 2000 he became president; the following year he added the title of CEO.

Zore was labeled brash and aggressive, which qualities he used to meet opportunities head on as they arose. With time and experience Zore realized that his success was also a result of his simply being with the right company. In a speech he gave on July 21, 2002, which was reproduced in Executive Speeches , Zore recalled how his boss John Konrad led him to this realization early in his career. Zore had just finished explaining his own perceived value and the good work that he was doing when Konrad replied, "Ed, you know what? You are pretty good. And you might be pretty good someplace else. But tell me this: Did you ever think that you might be successful because of who you're with—Northwestern Mutual? You are where you are because of where you are" (December/January 2002).

In 2003 Northwestern Mutual announced a number of management changes. One of the company's continuing goals, which Zore supported, was to provide its management with both wide and deep knowledge of the ways in which the company worked. The knowledge gained by executives through understanding the functions of a variety of divisions would allow the company to draw from within its ranks to fill high-level positions. In adherence to that strategy the company moved 11 managers into different roles in different divisions.


One of Northwestern's points of pride was the fact that in the entirety of its operations, which spanned more than 140 years, the company never laid an employee off. In 2003 Northwestern Mutual employed more than four thousand people in Milwaukee in addition to 7,900 field agents. Zore worked vigorously to support the company's goal of fostering loyalty among employees; by offering some of the best benefits in the industry as well as generous bonuses and pay, Northwestern Mutual guaranteed such continued loyalty from its workers. The company bolstered rewards packages with constant and consistent training and support—especially for the large force of field agents stationed throughout the country. Zore believed that high employee loyalty would in turn inspire client loyalty, which would in turn save the company up to $400 million a year. Zore explained in an American Banker article, "In a business built on relationships, the combined effect of employee, sales-force, and customer loyalty can't be overestimated" (September 19, 2003).

In support of the human side of its business, Northwestern Mutual chose not to abandon its field sales force by offering products online, instead providing personal Web sites for individual agents via which clients could obtain information from the main company site. Through an online training program calling the Learning Network, Northwestern kept its agents up-to-date on industry knowledge, such that they could maintain their status as financial experts who could offer personal assistance and in-depth guidance to clients.

Zore believed in spurring organic growth at Northwestern Mutual, wherein every aspect of the organization was vital to the whole. That sense of the organic helped lead Zore to concentrate on the benefits of keeping employees loyal. Zore's commitment to the company, its clients, and its employees was exemplified following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Within two days he had arrived in New York City to work with the agencies that had experienced the most client losses. Soon afterward he praised the work of the agents and employees who had lost clients—or who had almost lost their own lives—in the collapse of the World Trade Center. Zore praised the strength of Northwestern's employees and agents; was proud of the quick and uncomplicated manner in which claims were settled within days of their being filed; and was thus assured of Northwestern's financial security. In response employees and coworkers praised him for his personal touch.

In 2003 Northwestern Mutual's premium revenue rose to $10.3 billion, but dividend rates for policyholders dropped from 8.2 percent to 7.7 percent. In 2002 the company had experienced a number of losses due to a plunging stock market, leaving its net income at $158 million, but by 2003 net income had risen to $692 million. Zore believed that the slow and steady management of resources, which was a hallmark of Northwestern Mutual's operations, not only allowed the company to weather the financial storms of the early 2000s but helped it to succeed and ensured its future growth.

See also entry on Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company in International Directory of Company Histories .

sources for further information

Gallagher, Kathleen, "CEO of Milwaukee-Based Insurance Firm Rides Risks to the Top," Milwaukee Journal Sentinel , November 26, 2001.

Reichheld, Frederick E., "Want to Know How to Keep Expenses Low? Think Loyalty," American Banker , September 19, 2003, p. 6.

Zore, Edward, "We Are Where We Are Because of Where We Are," Executive Speeches , December/January 2002, pp. 16–21.

—Eve M. B. Hermann

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