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Mindy Diamond on Independence: $500M Northwestern Mutual Breakaway Finds Her Voice and a 5x Valuation in True Independence

Katherine Forrester Schneewind left a country music career behind to follow her dream of becoming a financial planner so she could help others take control of their financial destinies. In 2019, after building the practice to $500 million in AUM, she and brother Michael Forrester left Northwestern Mutual to launch RIA High Note Wealth.


Picture this: A 23-year-old with a college degree in music, which was earned while singing with the Cash Family, decides to leave Nashville and the country music scene behind to follow her life’s dream.

That is, to be a financial planner.

Sure, you might think the story should be told the other way around.

But for Katherine Forrester Schneewind, her life’s calling wasn’t about becoming the next country music star. Instead, she was driven by a strong desire to help others become stars in their own lives—their financial lives— by empowering them with knowledge and advice so they could take control of their destiny.

So in 1996 she joined Northwestern Mutual, and learned the ropes in “defensive planning” as she describes it, estate planning and insurance as well as investments.

It was a recipe for success that resulted in building the business to $500 million in assets under management in a little over two decades, making Katherine one of Northwestern Mutual’s top advisors.

But, as is common with many self-motivated entrepreneurial types, she started to feel restricted by the firm’s “red tape” in serving clients and growing the business. After conducting due diligence, Katherine and brother/partner Michael Forrester decided that a move to another firm felt too lateral. So in 2019, they launched independent firm High Note Wealth in partnership with Dynasty Financial Partners and Schwab Advisor Services.

In this episode, Katherine shares her story with Louis Diamond, including:

  • Her journey from Nashville to the world of financial planning—and how Northwestern Mutual provided the perfect foundation for her break into the investment world.
  • The changes Katherine saw at the firm—and how a strong “sales” culture can be both a positive and a negative.
  • The choice to go independent—and why taking a recruiting deal from a big firm didn’t feel like the right path for their business.
  • The one thing she misses the most in independence—and what she’s doing to recreate it at High Note Wealth.
  • The economic benefits she’s seeing as an RIA—and how the business is now realizing a 5x increase in valuation.

It’s striking how many top advisors we speak with discuss seminal moments in their lives that color their fate—sending them in a new direction with a level of drive and motivation that seems unstoppable.

For Katherine, making the leap ultimately came down to the sense of empowerment—that is, having “earned the right to be independent” and own her clients.

It’s likely to rank as one of our most interesting conversations to date, so be sure to listen in.

Download a transcript of this episode…

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Listen to more episodes of Mindy Diamond on Independence: A Podcast for Financial Advisors Considering Change.

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