Karges working to expand, diversify services

October 22, 2018

A Columbus native is now serving as the managing director of Northwestern Mutual branches in Columbus, Fremont and Norfolk.

Nathan Karges, a 1996 graduate of Columbus Scotus Central Catholic High School, was promoted in January to his new role after the former managing director took a new job with the company, he said during a Thursday interview with The Telegram.

After graduating from Nebraska Wesleyan University in 2000 with a bachelor’s degree in business management, Karges spent a few years traveling abroad taking in the sights while determining what he wanted to do with his life.

Eventually, a career in the financial services industry took root when he joined Northwestern Mutual’s Lincoln branch in 2008 as a financial adviser. After returning to Columbus in 2011, his responsibilities continued branching out in 2013 working as a field director in Columbus and the company’s northeast district; coaching and networking with other clients and brokers helping them reach their individual goals.

Karges, one of the organization’s four managing directors in Nebraska, has steadily worked to grow his service area and diversify his clientele – and staff – during his time manning the helm. A little more than a year ago, he said, the local Columbus branch’s office housed two financial advisers. That number has steadily grown to nine.

The Norfolk and Fremont locations he oversees both have four advisers on staff, he added. Northwestern Mutual, which Karges said is the largest life insurance provider in the country, offers a wide variety of services to clients facing a plethora of financial situations.

“Big picture, I always say that we offer holistic financial planning,” he said. “So its anywhere on risk management from life insurance, disability insurance, long-term care insurance; we do group insurance and all those benefits. On the investment side its anything from 401 (k)s to IRAs to college planning – just a lot of things.”

This spring, Karges said Northwestern Mutual collaborated with the Columbus Area Chamber of Commerce in an effort to see if it could provide services to the area’s Latino population.

Having fairly recently hired two bilingual advisers and also having an additional staff member who speaks Spanish, Karges said he worked with chamber President K.C. Belitz in conjunction with representatives from Centro Hispano to host a dinner with various Latino business owners encompassing Columbus and its surrounding communities.

“A lot of the people that have immigrated here, they just aren’t so sure. A lot of times they come from a place where there isn’t a whole lot of trust, which is huge in our business,” Karges said. “And, you know, some don’t know the first thing about life insurance, or something like stocks – they’ve always just put their money in the bank. So we go in with the attitude that we want to build that relationship, because if you can’t do that you don’t have anything.

He added that he learned the need for financial advice absolutely was there, and he’s glad that he and his colleagues have been able to play a role in helping immigrant families become for financially independent and secure.

“It’s been cool, frankly just cool,” Karges said. “Just seeing some people come in who we can help.”

Belitz added that he viewed the gathering as a positive experience for all parties involved.

“This was an example of a specific (chamber) member asking us to help them with something that fit within the framework of our existing Engaging Diversity Task Force, so we took the idea to (the task force) and they thought it made some sense in serving specifically the Hispanic community; that maybe there would be some needs in that area,” Belitz said.

“So we helped Centro Hispano and Northwestern (Mutual) organize the event. And it did surface that there was a need for some financial services; for people new to our area and new to the financial options in the U.S. And it turned out to be a really positive evening.”

Every client who works with Northwestern Mutual, Karges said, has a plan formulated that is tailor-made to his or her needs. In years past, Karges said the industry focus was to help people invest in a smart manner so that they would have a lump-sum of money to fall back on when they retire.

However, a more modern take is that people perhaps need even more financial guidance once retirement is on the horizon.

“We are like Sherpas (Himalayan people living on the borders of Nepal and Tibet, renowned for their skill in mountaineering), we take you both up and down,” he said. “Seventy percent of the accidents come on the way down, right? So in the financial planning industry it seems like everyone is focused on (the way up), but the reality now is, how do I take someone where they are now to get them through retirement?”

Karges, who lives in town with his wife, Ashley, and four children, 11-year-olds Sofia and Ian and 8-year-olds Samantha and Vivienne, said making a difference in his hometown is gratifying; it’s given him the opportunity to serve with Sammy’s Superheroes and participate in Alex’s Lemonade Stand, among others.

“I think, for me, it’s allowed me to do a lot more of those things than I would have if I still lived in Lincoln or Omaha,” he said. “I mean, I know there’s opportunities there, but it’s just different here. Just being here and knowing the culture.”

Sam Pimper is the news editor of The Columbus Telegram. Reach him via email at sam.pimper@lee.net.