Toward the end of 2019, the lease was expiring for the office at Northwestern Mutual. Managing partner Shawn Kelley conducted a citywide search to find the perfect location. At the time, there was limited prime office space available. So they decided to stay put and renovate the 33,000 square foot office they had been in for more than 20 years since the location had ideal accessibility and parking. Kelley commissioned Dominic Iacobucci, an architect with BHDP, to reimagine the space to create an environment that was more conducive to their work.

“We wanted something that was more relevant, more modern, more transparent,” Kelley said. Along with Iacobucci, Kelley brought together a team of experts to bring the vision to fruition. They included Marty Jones with Hunt Builders, Bob Ryan and Jordan Weidner with Cushman & Wakefield, and Bryan Lindholz with RCF Group. 

Together, they determined that they would focus on five things. These included:

• Building an internal community, which would involve bringing people together and strengthening relationships through networking, coaching, and teaming.

• Enhancing the client experience by providing different types of seating and privacy considerations conducive to sparking productive conversations.

•Increasing daylight and warmth within the space by utilizing wood materials and opening up some of the exterior views.

• Building a cafe in the center that would act as a prominent community gathering place to help attract and retain top talent.

• Reinforcing the training experience by raising people of various expertise levels within Northwestern Mutual.

“We recognized that we needed advisers to want to come into the office because if they were there working together, they could not only strengthen one another but also strengthen what they were providing to their clients,” Iacobucci said. 

The cafe was a big part of that, especially for younger advisers eager to use the space to host vibrant networking events. According to Kelley, it was not difficult to get people to come back to the office.

“All we had to say was, ‘Welcome back,’” he said. “There is talk that people have changed their values. I disagree. I think people’s values were reinforced. This space was designed with our values in mind, and one of those values is community. I think people crave community now more than ever.”

Initially, COVID-19 restrictions prevented them from being able to open the cafe. However, as soon as they received guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and the city to reopen it, people began congregating there to chat, grab lunch, and catch up with their colleagues.

In addition, the front office was redesigned with the client’s experience in mind.

“Before, the space was nice, but you didn’t know if you should turn right or left when you came off the elevator. Plus, you had to find the reception desk. That’s not the case anymore,” Iacobucci said. “Now, when you come into the space, you feel like you have options but also feel you are being hosted. That piece of it helps to make the teams successful.”

Northwestern Mutual Chief of Staff Gemma Brown and Mandy Dye, office manager, were integral in shaping the new space. In addition, Bryan Lindholz with RCF decorated the renovated office with a sophisticated, warm, and welcoming palate that leverages Northwestern Mutual’s brand colors in a smart way.

“The blues add to that modern sophistication,” Iacobucci said. “You walk in and feel like you’ve got confidence in what’s there and what they’re doing.”


For more information on Northwestern Mutual, visit cincinnati.nw.com or call 513-366-3600.