Based out of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Northwestern Mutual operates in both the diversified insurance and financial services markets, providing both life insurance and risk policies as well as mutual funds and group plans to customers. Additionally, Northwestern Mutual is heavily involved in financial advice and investment tools for its customers as well as retirement saving and estate planning.
Similar to New York Life, Northwestern is among the three life insurance companies to be able to brag about top, superior strength ratings from the four big rating agencies. That reputation provided valuable marketing leverage until 2011 when Standard & Poors lowered the Northwestern's rating score. Ironically, the downward rating adjustment had more to do with the U.S. government's risk being lowered due to partisan fighting in Congress at critical budget negotiation points than it did with the company's own management performance and asset risks. However, Northwestern, like many other insurers, carries large policies with the government and those affected by government spending, so it suffered accordingly when the U.S. federal rating was downgraded.
While the company is not the largest provider of life insurance in the U.S. as of 2012, it is the largest direct provider to customers in the country, with $2 trillion represented in its collective portfolio of insurance policies. The company also leads the industry as the most consistent payout of dividends to policyholders, albeit not the longest history of payments.