Ah, the circle of life. For a child in elementary school, avoiding the principal is paramount. However, folks looking toward retirement may actually seek out The Principal. Founded in 1879, Principal Financial Group (or The Principal) is a top administrator of employer-sponsored retirement plans, offering pension products and services, as well as mutual funds, annuities, asset management, trust services, and investment advice. Its insurance segment provides group and individual life and disability insurance and group dental and vision coverage. To compete with banks encroaching on the company's territory and to maximize customer asset retention, subsidiary Principal Bank offers online banking.
The Principal boasts more than 18 million customers and about $367 billion of assets under management. Its products are offered through a network of about 11,600 independent brokers, consultants, and agents, as well as through its own sales force at more than 40 offices nationwide.
With operations in about a dozen countries, The Principal aims to become a global player in retirement services, targeting countries in Asia and Latin America that rely on private-sector defined-contribution pension plans to accommodate their growing number of retirees. The company typically builds its international business through startups, acquisitions, and joint ventures. In 2012 the company made plans to acquire Chilean pension management firm AFP Cuprum S.A. for $1.5 billion. Pending regulatory hurdles, The Principal hopes to close the deal during the first quarter of 2013. It has been lured by the attractive emerging retirement and long-term savings markets, such as Chile, Mexico, and Brazil, that AFP Cuprum serves. Also in 2012 the company bought 60% of Brazilian asset manager Claritas, which has some $1.8 billion in assets under management. Prior to 2012, The Principal acquired pension fund manager AFORE in 2011 from HSBC; the deal added some 1.6 million customers and nearly $3 billion of assets under management in Mexico.
In the UK, the company acquired hedge fund Finisterre Capital, enhancing its emerging market investment capabilities in 2011. Also that year it bought a majority stake of Origin Asset Management, a UK firm with some $2.6 billion in assets under management. Additionally, The Principal has offices in Australia and Southeast Asia and a joint venture in China.
In the US, The Principal courts firms with fewer than 1,000 employees for its insurance and pension products; that market is primed for growth, as a relatively low percentage of small to midsized businesses currently offer these products. Its strategy for growth also includes targeting large institutional clients for its asset management operations, which include Principal Global Investors. The company serves approximately 650 institutional investors.
A rebound in the markets in 2010 and 2011 helped to boost The Principal's retirement and investor services segments and increase Principal Global Investors' assets under management, leading to an uptick in profits. However, the growth has been partially offset by the company's decision to exit the group medical insurance business.
It stopped selling medical insurance and entered into an agreement with UnitedHealthcare to renew medical insurance for existing customers. The Principal decided to cut the segment after it began to shrink in size compared to its other lines of business. The move allowed the company to sharpen its focus on asset management in the US and abroad.
In 2012 The Principal announced plans to buy First Dental Health, a California-based preferred provider organization with more than 11,000 dentists operating in the West. – less