This story begins, like many business conversations, on the golf course. It was 1998, and young Danny Moseley was carrying clubs for Duluth's finest.

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"I had the opportunity to get to know people who taught me who to be, and who not to be, in life," he recalled recently. "It taught me how to work hard."

It took Daniel Moseley another decade or so to figure out where to direct that energy - financial planning - but from his corner office overlooking the lake, he obviously didn't stray much.

Moseley, 29, was named managing director for Northwestern Mutual's Duluth office this past summer, and he has big plans to add clients and employees and financial peace of mind for many.

"This city is so hungry for what we do, and I had such a laser-focused vision for where I wanted to go, that it was just a perfect recipe," Moseley said.

His predecessor and mentor (and hockey great) Bill Watson agreed.

"He's got a real desire to lead and bring this office to the next level," he said. "He's ambitious, and he's got all the skills to do it."


The path


It wasn't a straight shot from the golf course to the corner of Lake Avenue and Superior Street, or even to a career in financial planning at all.

When Moseley left his native Duluth for Concordia College in Moorhead, he intended to return and build a "real estate empire."

"Rob Link, Sandy Hoff, Frank Messina - I saw some of the things some of those pioneers would do, and I'd really love to follow in their footsteps," Moseley said. "That's where my head was."

Now he sits on the fourth floor of the building the late Link dreamed up.

A push from a professor landed Moseley an internship at Northwestern Mutual in Fargo in 2010, and an early client changed that gig from a resume-builder to a calling. He recalled the client saying: "I have never felt like someone listened to us like you did and built a strategy around what we care about."


"As an intern I secured a client that to this day is one of my better clients by doing the exact thing I do today: To get to the core of what people care about and design a strategy to get them to achieve it," Moseley said.

He returned to Duluth in 2011 and moved through several leadership roles at the Technology Village office before assuming the top role, where he's pushing not just for more business but for deeper community involvement, especially in pediatric cancer research.

 Bill Watson
Bill Watson

"He was drawn to the leadership side of what we do, and I think he always had a vision of doing what I was doing as a managing director," said Watson, 53, who will return to his financial planning business full time with no intentions to retire.

If Moseley is young for a leadership role in a major company, he's young for a financial adviser, too - the average age is about 50.

That's part of the opportunity.

"The day-to-day burden is on his shoulders, and he's in a perfect age group to do it," Watson said.


Forward thinking


Northwestern Mutual, founded in 1857 and today headquartered in Milwaukee, was long just a life insurance company. Since 2001 its representatives have also offered comprehensive financial planning, a phrase ubiquitous but still foreign to many consumers today.

"This firm has taught me what that really means," Moseley said.

It means listening and responding, not offering a sales pitch, he said, as the industry moves away from selling a product to offering a service, smartphone app and all.

"How do you lead people to what they want? External motivation only goes so far," Moseley said. "Let's unpack why you're here today, what brought you through the door, what does your life look like five years from now?"

Motioning out the window to the city below, Moseley expands on his goals: "To teach people the financial literacy they deserve, and provide better financial security for this town, provides the chance to make this look a lot different than it does right now."

Moseley figures that as a financial adviser he could reach 100 new households a year - so about 4,000 people over his career. As managing director with the goal of bringing on several more team members in the next few years, that number could be closer to 40,000.

"I'm not saying we need to make everyone rich here, I'm just saying we need to maybe not hurt the next generation over and over and over again through bad planning," he said.

So while he's itching to pick up the phone and chase new clients himself, Moseley knows it's time to delegate and start recruiting people that can follow in his footsteps.

"A big-thinking, forward-thinking, driven person with a little bit of entrepreneurial flair."