The Financial Whiz

Derek Tamm, CLU, of Northwestern Mutual's The Columns Resource Group discusses ....
▶ a 96% retention rate
▶ financial security
▶ team building
▶ the Community Impact Award

Derek Tamm's secret to success: he empowers his key team members to "create and execute" without his constant attention.

Derek Tamm, CLU, fantasized about a career as a Wall Street stockbroker since childhood. As he approached junior high, he began trying to outperform his parents’ advisors by selling imaginary stock to his siblings. The 2000 dot-com bust made Tamm focus on helping people plan for financial security rather than impressing them with speculations. After graduation, Tamm joined The Columns Resource Group, a Minneapolis network office of insurance giant Northwestern Mutual, as a college intern in 2002; became full-time within two years; and earned three more promotions in the next seven years. Now the company’s chief development officer, Tamm shares lessons from a childhood dream turned career.

Tell us about your current position at Northwestern Mutual.
My overarching responsibility as chief development officer is to oversee growth for our business in the Minneapolis market. We have worked to select the best recruits and train them to produce at a high level of productivity early on. I also work on developing leadership to help see this office grow to the next generation.

How do you see your work impacting the firm in the long term?
You can see our impact specifically by looking at productivity and retention of financial representatives with under five years of experience at The Columns Resource Group. There is incredible importance to get them productive early. We have a 96 percent retention rate to retirement for those that surpass five years with our organization.

What is one of your current strategies for growing your division as well as the company?
We’re investing in future growth. Our intent is to grow our market share with more people on the street bringing financial security to the marketplace, while developing and retaining them through strong leadership development. But we’re also trying not to recruit faster than the speed of leadership development, as our financial representatives need a constant hand on their shoulder as they enter this complex business.

What’s your management style?
In my earlier and smaller roles, I generally just led by example. My goal was to teach those around me how to do their jobs at a high level. However, as the position and the size of my teams have grown, it has become more difficult to try to be an expert in everything. I tend to spend more time team building and collaborating with my key people, and empowering them to create and execute without my constant attention.

Where is Northwestern Mutual heading?
Northwestern Mutual is in a very strong position within our industry right now. We weathered the financial crisis very well and are aligned to capture a significant portion of the market. With our foundation as a prestigious insurance company, we have developed into a top-tier investment-management firm as well. I see us continuing to evolve into a holistic firm for all of our client’s financial-security needs.

At the end of the day, what brings you the greatest satisfaction?
We give a lot of time back to the community, and I have been fortunate to be recognized for my service with the Northwestern Mutual Community Service Award and the Community Impact Award. These financial awards, totaling $60,000, went to support a capital project for the Miracle League of Central Minnesota in St. Cloud, which helped build an outdoor baseball park designed for children with special needs. I also enjoy spending time with my wonderful wife, Melinda, who also works very hard as the owner and president of Ms. Melinda’s Dance Studio in St. Cloud.

Where do you see your career in, let’s say, 2015?
I have changed roles more than I would have expected at this point in my career with Northwestern Mutual. Although it has really expedited my development, I think our organization would benefit from me staying in my current role and really focusing on continuing to build an unbelievable team focused on growth. [P]