Northwestern Mutual's IT philosophy is right out of Aesop's Fables. By applying the strategy of the tortoise and its slow and steady approach, this insurance giant with $92 billion in assets and annual revenues of $15.4 billion gets the most bang for its information technology buck.The Milwaukee-based company has to be careful how it uses technology because it can't jeopardize its shining reputation. This year, it was voted the "most admired" life insurance company for the 19th year in a row in a Fortune magazine survey. And, it ranks as the nation's best in customer satisfaction among all financial services studied, according to a Wall Street Journal 2001 report.

Believed to be unique among large insurers, Northwestern Mutual has one executive in charge of both corporate strategy and information technology. Senior executives believe this strategic joining properly aligns capital expenditures and technology with concrete business goals.

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