Larry Zimpleman, Principal Group CEO, discusses what he thinks makes the firm's investment management group a two-time winner of P&I's Best Places to Work.. View more in this series


Des Moines, Iowa | 942 U.S. employees | 1st among organizations with 500 to fewer than 1,000 employees | Two-time winner

Financial professionals who have a big ego and don't like to work with a team won't be successful at Principal Financial Group and its investment management unit, Principal Global Investors.

“You're not going to make it here if you come from an asset management firm with a sharp-elbow culture,” said Mary O'Keefe, senior vice president and chief marketing officer at Principal Financial Group, which also ranked among last year's winners.

Put another way: “You will have the most difficulty in our culture if you view yourself as a star,” said Ralph Eucher, Principal Financial executive vice president and its top human resources executive.

Positive relationships are key and are even part of employee evaluations that determine compensation, Ms. O'Keefe said.

The teamwork concept extends to investment team members giving fellow employees a helping hand when necessary.

In any growing and successful organization, employees can get overloaded and work-life balance can be thrown off, said Principal Global Investors CEO Jim McCaughan. Employees are encouraged to speak out about their needs, so help can be provided if needed. “Don't suffer in silence,” he said employees are told.

Mr. McCaughan said another key to a positive work environment is candor in communications.

“Investment management people are driven and academically credentialed. Anything you say to them has to stand well through scrutiny,” he said.

The communications, he said, include allowing employees to dissent from how things are done without fearing retaliation from management.

Many Principal employees cited as a positive in their responses to Pensions & Investments' Best Places to Work survey the good balance they find at Principal between their job and their life outside of work.

One employee said he liked working at Principal because of the company's dedication to work-life balance. “I work with good, hard-working people,” he said.

Mr. McCaughan said also key to enhancing employees' experiences is giving them optimal working conditions. He cites as an example, a computer system that allows users to sign on in Des Moines, Sydney, Dubai, Hong Kong or any other Principal office around the world and be able to access their files.

Being part of a team also extends to community endeavors.

Hundreds of employees participate in one companywide effort, The Principal Charity Classic. The PGA Champions Tour event features golfers older than 50. The Des Moines event raises $1 million annually for various children's charities, Ms. O'Keefe said.

“Volunteerism is strongly valued and encouraged,” said one employee answering the P&I survey. “I am proud to work for a company that has such a strong history of giving back to the community.”

Employees don't have the excuse that they are too busy for charitable work; Principal employees receive eight paid hours off a year to do volunteer work

“The company is unique in that we are actually a collaborative organization,” Mr. Eucher said.

Larry Zimpleman, CEO of Principal Financial, believes being in the Midwest helps to reinforce Principal's “no stars” culture. Being in Des Moines, he said, “we are able to attract and retain very globally qualified talent because I do think the Midwest is seen as a great place to live, work and raise a family.”