Improving collaboration and compliance at a financial services stalwart


more spend under management


annual savings

Chris Kee

Chris Kee

VP, Sourcing & Procurement, Northwestern Mutual

We wanted to reimagine what procurement could look like at a mature organization... and Zip gives us the insights we need to apply the right level of control to every request.

Company name

Northwestern Mutual



Company size



Milwaukee, WI

Tech stack

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The challenge

Founded in 1857, Northwestern Mutual offers a full portfolio of financial services, including life and disability insurance, wealth management, and retirement and business planning. The company ranks in the top 25% of Fortune 500 companies and serves more than five million customers. Northwestern has built its rich history of success on a foundation of innovation. So while procurement had been handled through a combination of makeshift legacy procurement software configurations, email, and other channels for some time to manage a billion dollars of spend, the procurement team recognized the impact a purpose-built digital system could make and set out to find the one that could serve their unique needs best. That search led them to Zip.

A significant portion of Northwestern’s budget goes to software and other easily assessed purchases. As a service business, there’s also a large spend around less quantifiable purchases. Procurement needed to work collaboratively with requesters to navigate subjective territory. “Our requirements aren’t cut and dried,” says Christopher Kee, Vice President of Sourcing and Procurement. “It’s more of an art than a science.”

Procurement was not set up to have those collaborative conversations with requestors. They lacked full visibility into every purchase and they were strapped for time. The team was constantly faced with the competing pressures of process compliance and requestor deadlines. “One person would say it takes ten steps to get something done and someone else would say it would take two,” Kee explains. Often, both were wrong, with two-steppers skipping critical due diligence and ten-steppers creating unnecessary roadblocks.

There was little or no transparency to support the company’s much-needed collaboration. “People were responding to requests through too many channels—emails, Slack, phone calls,” says Kee. “Someone who started a request would have no idea what was happening with it.”

The solution

With Zip, Northwestern can funnel procurement requests from all channels through a single portal—bringing order to chaos and facilitating the consistent budgetary and risk management collaboration the business needs.

Every request is routed to the right people in the right departments, and every document is easily and immediately accessible. “We can fully attest that everything is going through the appropriate privacy, security, third-party risk assessment process,” says Kee. “And we can answer questions with more data than we’ve ever had before.” With Zip, liabilities and audit worries are minimized, keeping the company focused on serving customers and building the business.

Zip’s ease of implementation and use has been one of the key benefits for Northwestern Mutual. “We were a little concerned about connecting to our existing infrastructure, but Zip’s low-code and no-code APIs were very helpful,” Kee says. “And compared with our old system, it’s night and day in terms of experience and ease of use. Employees love the transparency and visibility—especially our cross-functional teams.”

Being in a highly regulated industry, adherence is an enormous part of the procurement equation for Northwestern Mutual. Zip’s continuous refinement of product configurations to support financial customers with compliance and risk has been important for Northwestern Mutual. The regulatory component is huge for us,” says Kee.

We need to perform the right amount of risk review on third-party requests as they come in. Before Zip, there were inconsistencies that created significant liabilities.”

The result

Zip brought consistency and clarity to formerly disparate workflows—capturing requests that had once gone unrecorded, enabling leadership to make better, data-driven decisions, saving a significant amount of money and satisfying the need to support ever changing third party risk management challenges.

“There’s one front door,” Kee says. “All those one-off requests are captured and sent through the right processes. We estimate we’ve saved up to 18% over the last year—and increased our spend under management by as much as 20%.” Leadership is no longer working from an incomplete picture of spending. Zip’s document and information organization capabilities have helped them replace guesswork with informed decisions. “Senior leaders can finally have procurement conversations with a strong level of confidence,” Kee says.

With less time and effort required for implementation and adoption, the company is ahead of schedule in terms of the next stage of evolution for procurement. “Our next step will be synthesizing the data we get from Zip and using it to make our processes more agile,” Kee says. “And while we’re still relying on our old system for the payment portion, we’re already evaluating replacing that with Zip’s solution.”

Zip led Northwestern Mutual to an 18% cost savings

Zip empowered a 20% increase in spend under management

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