Northwestern Mutual, Nashville: A Model of Corporate Culture and Giving Back

In the modern business world, fostering a collaborative culture is every bit as important as bolstering a company’s bottom line. But unlike other aspects of business, culture isn’t something that can be handed down by fiat. It’s a give and take. Management and employees must contribute equally to creating a vibrant culture.

Northwestern Mutual in Nashville, Tenn. is a test case for cultivating a culture of giving. Over the past four years, three of the firm’s financial advisors—Cullen Douglass, Chad Greer and Roy Jordan—have earned Invest in Others honors—an achievement given that there’ve been only 175 winners and finalists during the past 12 years.

What is Nashville Northwestern Mutual doing to encourage philanthropy?  

A Culture of Philanthropy Starts at the Top

Cullen, Chad and Roy credit the office’s longtime managing partner, Bill Cochran, for making philanthropy an indelible part of the culture. During his 40+ year tenure at Northwestern Mutual, Bill lived by example, putting his charitable work ahead of everything else, including his day job.

“Shortly after I started working at Northwestern Mutual, I missed a United Way breakfast for a meeting with a prospective client,” said Chad, a 2015 Invest in Others Community Service Award finalist. “Bill Cochran told me ‘we don’t miss charity meetings for anything.’”

Cullen, Chad and Roy—or as they like to call themselves, “the Band of Brothers”— joined the Nashville office straight out of college or shortly thereafter. All three initially gravitated to the same charities Bill was involved with: United Way, Family and Children’s Services (FCS) and Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA).

“Bill’s life’s passion was nonprofits,” Chad said. “He got more out of giving away money than making it.”

Though all three men have spent the entirety of their careers at Northwestern in Nashville, they say the environment stands out from other Northwestern offices around the country—crediting their former manager, who passed away in 2015, for fostering a caring culture that lives on to this day.

“I’ve never seen another office that has such a dedication to giving and such camaraderie,” Chad said.

Creating a Charitable Mindset

For Cullen, Chad and Roy, giving back and helping others was a part of their lives for as long as they can remember.  

“My dad sat on the board at the YMCA, and I went there for babysitting,” said Roy, the 2016 Invest in Others Community Service Award winner for his work with the Green Hills Family YMCA/YMCA of Middle Tennessee. “I realized early on that serving your community is important, not only because your community needs it, but because it makes your life great.”

Likewise, Cullen Douglass learned from a very early age that helping others enriches you in immeasurable ways.

“My mom was a social worker and my brother was severely mentally disabled,” said Cullen, a 2018 Invest in Others Catalyst Award finalist. “I grew up with a bend towards giving back.”

Inspiring the Next Generation of Givers

Together, Cullen, Chad and Roy have more than 75 years of collective experience working at Northwestern Mutual. Now that they are role models themselves, the three men say they’re serious about stepping in to fill their former manager’s shoes and inspiring their younger colleagues to give back.

For the past 19 years, in addition to his personal charitable work, Chad has organized a monthly meal at the Safe Haven Family Shelter, arranging for his Northwestern colleagues to bring a dish and help serve the community.  He’s also taken the lead in recognizing Cullen and Roy through award nominations. 

“People say they don’t have time to volunteer,” Chad said. “But you have time to do anything if you truly want to do it.”

Cullen, Chad and Roy prove that when everyone comes to the table with a passion for giving back, there is no limit to what we can accomplish.