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Principal Financial Group, The 711 High Street, Des Moines, IA 50392
www.principal.com (515) 247-5111    Fax: (515) 246-5475  

The Scoop  

We've got you covered

An insurance and financial services Goliath, the Principal Financial Group employs nearly 10,000 people in its Iowa headquarters alone. Principal offers a broad range of insurance and financial products and services through a network of subsidiaries, led by the Principal Life Insurance Company. That subsidiary is the eighth-largest life insurance company in the U.S.


Founded by Edward Temple as the Bankers Life Association in 1879, the association originally relied on volunteers to provide low-cost protection to bankers and their families. Gradually offering insurance to non-bankers, the association became a company in 1911. Bankers Life began offering group life insurance in 1941, and added individual accident and health insurance in the 1950s and 60s amidst rapid growth. In 1986, the holding company was renamed the Principal Financial Group, with its largest unit becoming Principal Mutual Life Insurance.

Not just insurance

Principal offers far more than just insurance. Its pension operation includes more than 39,000 employers; the group provides administrative services for more 401(k) plans than any bank, mutual fund or insurance company. Principal is also one of the principal players in mortgage banking, ranking among the top 25 residential mortgage bankers nationally in new loan origination and servicing. The firm's asset management division, which manages money for institutional investors, oversees $82.3 billion in assets. Through its mutual funds family targeting individual investors, the firm has $5.8 billion under management. In December 1999 the company named J. Barry Griswell as its new CEO.

Banking on banking

In 1998 the company launched an online banking arm, which gathered $13.1 million in customer assets by the end of the year. Thanks to an entirely automated processing system, Principal Bank hopes to keep its costs low. The bank's assets grew to about $100 million by the end of 1999.

Going international

In 1998 Principal's policyholders voted to adopt a mutual holding company organizational structure. Early the following year, the company completed a major global strategy review outlining four key international markets for expansion: the U.K., Japan, Brazil, and Australia. With these goals in mind, the company acquired Bankers Trust Australia Group in September 1999. Principal also created a joint venture with Banco de Brasil. It later spun off Principal Capital Management into its own company which opened a sales and marketing office in London in May 2000 to serve the company's European client base (which accounts for roughly $200 million of the firm's assets). In January 2000 the company continued its global expansion with a joint venture with Dutch financial services conglomerate ING Group to sell pension plans in Japan. Other international ventures have included the opening of annuity subsidiaries in Buenos Aires, Argentina and Mexico City. It also acquired 60 percent of Chilean residential mortgage firm Andueza y Cia. Principal expects assets under management in Mexico, Chile, and Argentina to reach almost $2 billion by 2003. And in February 2000 the company acquired a stake in India's largest financial service provider, IDBI Investment Management Company and created a joint venture with the Industrial Development Bank of India.

Getting Hired  

Visit the "Employment" section of Principal's web site, located at www.principal.com, for general job descriptions and hiring information, as well as information about open positions. Qualifications vary by position, and are listed with job descriptions on Principal's web site. Send or fax resumes to human resources at Principal's Iowa headquarters. The company also posts a schedule of its visits to college campuses at which it recruits, many of which are located in the Midwest.

Insiders at Principal note that the company "hires people through just about every channel it can." Most new hires are gained through college recruiters although many people just submit resumes. The interview process itself is described as "friendly and very laid-back." Applicants can expect to interview initially with a Human Resources representative where basic questions such as job history and character type are asked. Contacts reveal that the HR people "take notes and forward them to the manager of the hiring department with all the other candidates."

Our Survey Says  

A big Midwestern family

Insiders at Principal say they work in a surprisingly close-knit environment for a large company. Explains one contact, "Departments are relatively small, so there is kind of a family-like atmosphere." Another insider agrees, saying that "even though it's a large company, employees still have a close feeling." Another is less touchy-feely but reports that "as corporate environments go, it is a pleasant place." "The corporate culture is very professional but relaxed," reports another insider. "People treat each other with a great deal of respect."

Employees at the Principal headquarters in Iowa note that "the Midwestern work ethic is definitely here," describing a quiet culture both in and out of the workplace. One single employee complains that "Des Moines is very hard for young singles, but a great place to raise a family."

Good diversity

Echoing Principal's claims to encourage diversity, one source notes: "The company has gone out of its way to teach diversity through social programs." Another employee adds that "women are moving into the more senior positions." "We have a very active diversity program, with special organizations," says one insider. Another reports that "for women and minorities, I think the company does a great job." Several contacts cite their employer's citations in publications such as Working Mother and Latina, as one of the top companies to work for women and minorities.

Good perks

Employees praise competitive salaries, excellent benefits packages, and opportunities for advancement. Perks include free parking after five years with the company, and free bus passes. The company's Iowa headquarters offers "two fully equipped health and fitness centers that are free for employee use." At its fitness center, employees can take "aerobic classes over the lunch hour." The company also offers subsidized meals at both of its cafeterias, serving what insiders say is "actually good" food.

As for the less glamorous perks, "insurance is extremely cheap and gives you quite a few options." Says another insider: "health insurance at Principal is among the best available." With a "very generous" pension plan, insiders also enjoy a 401(k) that is matched 3 percent. The company does have an "excellent industry education program," and offers bonuses for course completion.

Flexible hours, but not that flexible

Hours at Principal are flexible. "You can pretty much choose your own start time, anywhere from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m." Another reports that the hours are "fairly flexible," and that most people work from 7 a.m. to 3:45 p.m. However, some departments have "core" business hours between 9 and 5, insiders report. Generally, employees at Principal work 8-hour workdays with "45-minute lunch breaks." Also, Principal employees can take advantage of alternative workweeks that let them work either four 10-hour days, or four nine-hour days and one four-hour day. Principal employees also enjoy a fairly relaxed dress code, that "corporate casual" but with "no jeans." Explains one insider: "It basically means no jeans or tennis shoes, but just about anything else goes."

Employment Contact  

Thomas J. Gaard
Human Resources - ANET
Des Moines

Products and Services  

Annuities;Disability Insurance;Employee benefit plans;Health care insurance;Life insurance;Mortgage lending;Mutual funds;Stock brokerage

Key Competitors  

A.G. Edwards;Allstate;Charles Schwab;Chubb;CIGNA;GEICO;The Hartford;John Hancock;Liberty Mutual;Merrill Lynch;MetLife;Morgan Stanley Dean Witter;New York Life;Northwestern Mutual;PaineWebber;Prudential;State Farm

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