Principal® announces new pooled employer plans to help more businesses provide workers access to retirement benefits

Aims to simplify plan administration, reduce fiduciary risk while supporting retirement security

The Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement (SECURE) Act is paving the way for unrelated employers to participate in a single, pooled employer plan (PEP) beginning next year. In support of this legislative action, Principal Financial Group® today announced it has teamed up with other key service leaders to provide Principal® EASE (PDF), a uniquely designed PEP that combines integrated retirement plan administration, customer service, and investment management capabilities.

Principal is taking responsibility as the Pooled Plan Provider (PPP). With its backing of financial strength and industry expertise, Principal will oversee the operation of the PEP, helping to ensure the plan meets regulatory requirements and helping employers reduce administrative work and fiduciary risk. This packaged fiduciary solution will be available for financial professionals to offer employers in 2021.

“The workplace is such an effective place to increase access to retirement savings plans,” said Jerry Patterson, senior vice president of Retirement and Income Solutions at Principal®. “Our position as a leading service provider of retirement plans in the U.S. opens the door for Principal to provide input on legislative efforts, which remains focused on helping increasing access to retirement plans for all American workers.”

A novel approach to simplifying plan administration and fiduciary risk for employers

Only 55 percent of workers employed by small businesses (1-99 workers) have access to retirement benefits.1 To help increase access to more American workers, Principal® EASE (PDF) will deliver a professionally managed approach—streamlining decisions for employer plans from start-up to $10 million in assets under management (AUM). Beginning next year, financial professionals will be able to offer this robust program that is powered by the latest in tech innovation, service integration, and data security.

“By shifting liability to designated fiduciaries with specific knowledge and skills, employers benefit from investment management as well as reduced administrative tasks and risks,” said Patterson.

Principal® EASE (PDF) brings together the combined strength and expertise of Principal as the Pooled Plan Provider (PPP) and recordkeeper, along with National Benefit Services, LLC (NBS) as the third-party administrator (TPA) and Wilshire® as the investment fiduciary. NBS brings 30 years of administrative and multiple employer plan (MEP) experience and has a track record of success providing retirement administration to more than 20,000 employers across the country. Wilshire brings a long history of investment management experience, developing market-tested strategies and innovative best practices garnered from meeting the needs of large institutional investors.

“As a top defined contribution player2, we bring the financial strength3, stability and integrity that comes with having a Fortune 500 company backing the size and scale of this PEP,” said Patterson. “We’re thrilled to team with NBS and Wilshire to help people feel more prepared and confident about their retirement.”

Teaming Up for the Future

More than a third of defined contribution plan sponsors (38%), both large and small, recently reported they may look to join a multiple employer plan (MEP) or PEP in the next two years.4  In preparation for future demand, Principal will look to continue working with other firms on joint PEP arrangements to continue to help more Americans feel more secure in their retirement.

1 US Bureau of Labor Statistics. Employee Benefits in the United States, September 2020. Accessed from

2 PLANSPONSOR Recordkeeping Survey, July 2020. Principal and Wells Fargo IRS combined data. Future market share is subject to change and won’t be updated until next release of application data.

3 Third party ratings relate to Principal Life Insurance Company and Principal National Life Insurance Company only, and do not reflect any ratings actions or notices relating to the US life insurance sector generally. Source: Fitch Rating: ’AA-’ Very Strong, fourth highest of 19 rating levels; S & P Global: ’A+’ Strong, fifth highest of 20 rating levels; A.M. Best Company: ’A+’ Superior, second highest of 13 rating levels; Moody’s Investors Service: ’A1’ Good, fifth highest of 21 rating levels. 

4 Escalent. Cogent Syndicated. Retirement Planscape® Survey, May 2020.

About Principal®

Principal helps people and companies around the world build, protect and advance their financial well-being through retirement, insurance and asset management solutions that fit their lives. Our employees are passionate about helping clients of all income and portfolio sizes achieve their goals – offering innovative ideas, investment expertise and real-life solutions to make financial progress possible. To find out more, visit us at

Wilshire and National Benefits Service are not an affiliate of any member of the Principal Financial Group.

The decision to delegate to and ongoing monitoring of the Pooled Plan Provider (PPP) and 3(38) investment manager is the fiduciary responsibility of the adopting employer.

Ratings current as of October 2020. Ratings are not a recommendation to buy, sell or hold a security. Ratings are subject to revision or withdrawal at any time by the assigning agency, and each rating should be evaluated independently of any other rating.  Information is current as of the creation of this piece. Keep in mind that portfolio holdings are subject to risk.

Insurance products issued by Principal National Life Insurance Co (except in NY) and Principal Life Insurance Co. Plan administrative services offered by Principal Life. Principal Funds, Inc. is distributed by Principal Funds Distributor, Inc. Securities offered through Principal Securities, Inc., 800-247-1737, member SIPC and/or independent broker/-dealers. Referenced companies are members of the Principal Financial Group®, Des Moines, IA 50392.

Principal, Principal and symbol design and Principal Financial Group are trademarks and service marks of Principal Financial Services, Inc., a member of the Principal Financial Group.