Member Spotlight | Andrew DeGuire

Vice President, Corporate Strategy, Northwestern Mutual

 ACG WI Member Since: 2015

ACG WI Involvement: Board Member (since 2021), ACG Cup Committee, ACG Cup Judge (2021)

Andrew DeGuire, Northwestern Mutual

Why did you join ACG?
It’s where the cool kids are. Seriously. I have been lucky to benefit from ACG membership while at Johnson Controls, Quad/Graphics and now Northwestern Mutual. Though there have been great teams inside each of those businesses, very few had fellow employees that do the kind of work that ACG members do every day. It is a great “community of practice” to hear and see how other professionals deal with the day-in-day-out challenges of generating growth for our companies.

What has your ACG membership meant to you?
It is consistently inspiring to hear first-hand how leaders from a range of companies developed growth plans to take their company to a different level of performance. Every meeting does not necessarily have a “light bulb” moment, but to see and hear the challenges that teams have faced and how they found ways to adapt and grow their businesses provides sustaining encouragement to keep getting better at what we do.

What lessons have you learned in your career that you think you will carry over in the long term?
Leadership and tone at the top is critical – while there are many teams inside companies doing great things, the leadership team needs to be clear and vocal on the direction of what they are prioritizing AND what is not a priority. Without that clarity, teams often drift in different directions, never creating the impact that they could with a unified push.

Getting the “right” person, not the “available” person – when there is a new project / effort that pops up, the typical discussion that happens is “who is available to work on this?”. The initiatives that really succeed make it a point to stop and figure out who is the right resource to lead the effort and the courage to move them off where they are currently engaged.

Look at the data to see which customers you really serve and what business you are actually in – Management teams are usually made up of leaders who have been in their business for years – that experience is invaluable. However, when making decisions about driving growth, it is critical to understand where you specifically are today so you can map out tangibly where you want to get to and how.

What do you think are the biggest challenges your industry will face in the next 5 years, and what actions is your business taking to position it for success in the future?
Continued fragmentation of value chains – companies historically built the full range of capabilities from sales and marketing to products and offerings to service and administration. With the continued advance of both different business models and enabling technology, the very structure of companies and nature of competition continues to shift.

Application and adoption of technology to get the intended benefits – designers build amazing digital experiences…and then we need people to actually use them, both employees and customers. Without the adoption, then the resources and time spent doesn’t deliver the intended value.

Staying connected to a changing customer – here’s a tangible example - mobile payments and curbside pickup were a slowly-growing novelty before the pandemic. Then, most stores and restaurants were forced to adopt them in order to survive. Consumer expectations and behavior have now shifted because of this experience. Understanding where, when, and how customers want to interact with your business and adapting will continue to separate the winning companies from the rest of the market.

What do you do for fun? 
I grew up playing golf with my dad and siblings. While I will never be as good as many of them, it is always fun to get out on the links – especially with so many good courses around Wisconsin. Also, the restorative nature of being on water is so clear when out on my kayak. You never know what you will find among lakes and streams. Finally, since it is summer in Milwaukee, biergartens are the place to be – Estabrook Park, South Shore Terrace, Hoyt Landing or Hubbard Park – all are fun to visit.

If you could learn anything, what would it be?
I want to learn what is the best sweet treat paired with an iconic European location. This requires lots of field research. Is it a chocolate croissant along the Seine? Could it be fika in Stockholm’s old town? What about gelato in the main square in Florence? Possibly baklava in Mykonos could be the answer? Whatever it is, I am committed to life-long learning on this topic.

What is the best thing you have read this past year?
Two responses spring to mind.  #1. The Economist magazine – that has been my answer to this question for the past 30 years.  #2. The varied collection online and in-print of how businesses, organizations and families found creative ways to cope with the adversity brought on by the pandemic and massive economic dislocation. It reminds me of the stories that I heard from my grandparents living through the Great Depression or my wife’s Irish grandmother working in an aircraft factory outside of London during World War II. The pandemic (hopefully) is the biggest challenge that our generation will ever face – our creativity, determination and support of each other got us through – these are lessons that will be important to remember when future challenges arise.

Andrew DeGuire, Northwestern Mutual
Andrew DeGuire, Northwestern Mutual