Connecting leading-edge people with cutting-edge technology to deliver above-and-beyond solutions

“We understand that in a hyper-competitive world,
being easy to do business with has to be a key part
of our value proposition.” Larry Zimpleman, Chairman and CEO

Innovation is about more than just doing things differently.

It's about finding new and better ways to connect strategic decisions to customer outcomes, attract and retain the best global talent, and empower customers, advisors, and employees with technology that enables them to do their jobs and meet their goals more effectively and efficiently.

As one of InformationWeek's Elite 100 business technology innovators, we know what it takes to make innovation meaningful.

The proof is in our people. In 2014, Doug Fick, vice president & chief information officer of U.S. Insurance Solutions, was named to Insurance and Technology magazine's Elite 8, recognizing the eight most successful and inspiring technology executives in the industry.

We also continued progress on our corporate campus renovations in Des Moines, creating a cutting-edge, technology-enabled workplace that supports easier and stronger collaboration among our offices in 18 countries (and counting)—and helps us attract and retain the best employees in the world.

With millennials expected to comprise as much as three-quarters of the domestic workforce by 2025,1 investing in innovation is more important than ever: 78% of millennials are strongly influenced by a company's degree of innovation in evaluating potential employers.2

And we're already well on our way. By creating an extraordinarily supportive, connected work environment, we lay the groundwork for attracting the best team in the industry—and empowering them to drive innovation.

This year alone, The Principal was honored as:

Such best-in-class recognition helps us attract the world's most qualified talent—talent that, in turn, drives innovation. The returns are exponential.

And it's not only employees who reap the rewards of our focus on innovation. Clients do, too, with industry-leading support. Among other 2014 recognition, The Principal received:

  • The PLANADVISER Adviser's Choice Award for defined contribution plan sponsor support
  • "Best in Class" honors for client service in the 2014 Chatham Partners Client Satisfaction Survey of retirement plan clients4

We continued to revolutionize our customer experience across every platform, including our game-changing Individual Life Accelerated Underwriting program and a completely revamped website and app for defined contribution plan participants. Ranked as the the Top Website for Defined Contribution Plan Participants by kasina, the improved interface makes online and mobile enrollment faster and easier and breathes new life into retirement savings goals with a personalized Retirement Wellness Score and interactive planner.

But innovation doesn't stop there. It's about building momentum toward a more connected global business—and a future that exceeds the expectations of our shareholders, clients, advisors, and employees.

Case Study

Accelerated Underwriting

Connecting employees across the world so they can work together and execute critical business solutions.

There's a lot of room to improve the traditional life insurance underwriting process. From a consumer perspective, it's confusing, intrusive, and time-consuming—which may, in part, explain why individual life insurance ownership rates reached a 50-year low of 44% just five years ago.

For years, The Principal has led the charge to streamline and simplify the process, reducing turnaround time to an industry low of 35 days and removing communication barriers to facilitate relationships between underwriters and advisors.

"We've always looked for ways to improve the underwriting process," says Greg Linde, senior vice president of Individual Life at The Principal. "It's helped us to gain a competitive advantage."

So it was nothing unusual when an executive forum on predictive analytics sparked a new idea. This time, however, the resulting innovation would go beyond improving the process—it would change the game entirely.

Launched in February 2014, our Individual Life accelerated underwriting process moves qualified applicants from submission to approval in 48 hours or less. That's hours, not days. And the total turnaround time, from submission to policy delivery? Fewer than 10 days.

"In a world of online shopping, overnight shipping, and instant gratification, an acquisition process that disappears into a black hole for 35 days just isn't conducive to a good customer experience," says Linde. "We knew we had to make some big, bold moves."

“We've built the tools. Now we want to further enhance the process. We get the opportunity to ask, 'Is there something more we can do with this?'”

Neal Halder, Assistant Vice President & Chief Underwriter

Accelerated underwriting leverages deep customer data with an algorithm that mimics the traditional underwriting process, automatically assessing risk and eliminating intrusive, time-consuming steps like lab testing and medical exams for 50–60% of applicants who qualify.

That means a more convenient, more comfortable experience for applicants; a smoother and less time-consuming effort for advisors; and a greatly simplified process for underwriters. With a steady adoption rate among advisors, continually increasing approval rates, and total applications that exceeded 2014 goals, it's clear that accelerated underwriting sets a new and better standard.

The overwhelmingly positive response is a tribute to the team's methodical approach—thousand of real life insurance applications informed the building of the algorithm, and thousands more have been used so far to test and refine it.

It's also the result of the project's collaborative, multidisciplinary approach, bringing together contributions from analytics, IT, marketing, sales, and other talent from around The Principal to gain a broader perspective on the effort's many possible opportunities.

As always, The Principal will combine discipline, focus, and forward thinking in determining next steps.

"We've built the tools. Now we want to further enhance the process," says Neal Halder, assistant vice president & chief underwriter at The Principal. "We get the opportunity to ask, ‘Is there something more we can do with this?'"

What that something is may still be taking shape, but there's one thing that's certain:

"This is a story about meeting changing customer needs," says Renee Heckman, assistant vice president for new business & underwriting operations. "It's an example of innovation, but it's just as much an example of putting our customers first."


employees in 18 countries


square feet to be renovated
in Des Moines


new funds launched in 20145


of millennials strongly influenced by a company's degree of innovation

(The Deloitte Millennial Survey, January 2014)

13 years

on Computerworld 's list of 100 best places to work in Information technology

1 "How Millennials Could Upend Wall Street and Corporate America," The Brookings Institute, May 2014

2 "The Deloitte Millennial Survey," Deloitte Consulting, January 2014

3 Entire contents copyright by Crain Communications. All rights reserved

4 Among defined benefit and defined contribution plans with more than $5 million in assets

5 Principal Funds, United States only