October 18, 2019 – The chief information officer is considered among the most strategic roles in any organization. Executive search consultants who specialize in recruiting for the position say that the best CIOs can dramatically differentiate a company in the market, while a poorly performing one can be an organization’s weakest link. Still, headhunting within the function remains challenging, and skilled C-suite IT professionals are among the toughest to find.
Recently, Sal DiFranco and David Merwin of DHR International placed former Express Scripts executive Neal Sample as the new chief information officer of Northwestern Mutual, which delivers financial security to more than 4.5 million people. The recruiters were able to fill the role quickly upon finding Mr. Sample’s resume.
“Neal brings a tremendous technology background and pedigree to this critical role as the company looks to execute a comprehensive legacy technology transformation,” said Mr. Merwin. “His deep technology experience is coupled with strong financial services exposure along with significant scale and complexity garnered from key roles with Express Scripts and American Express,” he said. “Moving from a mainframe centered environment to a more integrated platform incorporating emerging technologies, Northwest Mutual is focused on building a stronger online and overall relationship between its advisors and its client base with Sample’s guidance.”
“With his extensive technology management experience and R&D background, Neal is an excellent fit for our chief information officer role,” said John Schlifske, chairman, president and CEO of Northwestern Mutual. “Neal’s leadership and skill set will have a significant impact as we continue our digital transformation and create a leading digital experience for our clients and advisors.”
Veteran IT Executive
Mr. Sample previously served as CIO for Express Scripts before transitioning to chief operating officer. He also worked as a CIO and group president for American Express and worked at the executive level in managing roles for eBay, Yahoo and Right Order, giving him over 15 years of C-level experience. Mr. Sample has several patents and is a featured technology and business speaker in dozens of global forums. He is also a cited expert in several books and publications on topics regarding technology and data management.
In his new role, Mr. Sample will head the technology organization at Northwestern Mutual and be responsible for leading the company’s major technology systems and further developing its financial planning digital platforms.
Northwestern Mutual delivers financial security to more than 4.5 million people with life, disability income and long-term care insurance, annuities, and brokerage and advisory services. The company manages nearly $150 billion of investments owned by its clients and held or managed through its wealth management and investment services businesses.
Finder Leader Since 1989
Since 1989, DHR International has been a leading, privately held provider of executive search solutions with more than 50 wholly-owned offices spanning the globe. DHR’s consultants specialize in all industries and functions, providing senior-level executive search, management assessment and succession planning services tailored to the qualities and specifications of its client base.
Mr. DiFranco serves as managing partner of DHR’s global advanced technology practice group and is based in the firm’s Chicago and San Francisco offices. He has nearly 30 years of experience as an executive recruiter, completing more than 1,000 technology searches throughout his career. For the past nine years, Mr. DiFranco has served as managing partner of DHR’s global advanced technology practice & CIO/CTO practice, specializing in cloud, digital, IoT, data and analytics and software and applications. His clients range from Fortune 500 through venture capital backed start-up technology firms. Mr. DiFranco has conducted a broad range of C‐level assignments, including searches for chief technology officers, CEOs, chief operating officers, chief innovation officers, chief product officers, chief information officers and chief digital officers.
Mr. Merwin is a partner in the firm’s Boston office, where he conducts senior-level searches in the professional services, technology, life sciences, healthcare and private equity sectors. Bringing more than 18 years of search experience to his clients, he is focused on identifying key functional or industry leaders who represent critical near and longer term talent for their new organizations. As a member of the advanced technology practice at DHR, Mr. Merwin continues to build IT teams for clients across a number of industries including life sciences. Conducting searches for both fast growing and more established companies, he has completed CIO and CTO assignments along with those for VPs of R&D, sales and marketing, infrastructure and corporate functions.
Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor; and Andrew W. Mitchell, Managing Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media