Dan Houston

Dan Houston is the head of a $17.five billion international firm. He’s also the sort of CEO who, just after an interview, casually hands out his small business card as if you could possibly contact him later to go over which revenue annuity to propose to your elderly relative.

Houston’s laid-back manner might stem in component from his Des Moines, Iowa-primarily based Principal Monetary Group roots (although to be fair, he was introduced to PLANADVISER shortly just after a small business trip to the Middle East and Asia). That behavior might also stem from his individual history of joining Principal in 1984 as an insurance coverage sales representative. Or, it could be Houston’s practice of joining its teams in meetings with customers, each massive and tiny.

“I assume the worst issue you could ever do as a CEO is to be cooped up in an workplace and not get out and have points break down just about every now and then,” Houston stated. “You have to see what your specialists are dealing with and what the true difficulties are out there.”

What ever the explanation, Houston’s method has kept him at the helm as the director has steadily sought to concentrate on 3 core pillars in current years: asset management, group insurance coverage and retirement investment solutions.

In June 2021, the firm announced the benefits of a strategic evaluation, due in component to a “cooperation agreement” from its biggest investor, activist shareholder Elliott Investment Management. That evaluation saw the firm concentrate on its “greater-development retirement, international asset management and advantage protection organizations in the US,” it stated in a statement at the time. The firm also halted sales of its U.S. retail fixed annuity and customer life insurance coverage solutions.

Considering that then, Principal has divested some of that life insurance coverage small business — components of which Houston reduce its teeth practically forty years ago — rebranded its asset management arm with a Nasdaq listing, and lately spun off its international pension small business into asset management.

“We’re a massive asset manager about the planet in retirement plans that have practically nothing to do with record maintaining,” Houston stated.

Rupiah Management

The most current move is component of a decade-lengthy shift in the so-known as emerging markets exactly where Principal operates, Houston explained.

1 component of the transition was that lots of nations that when only permitted neighborhood investments in pension plans started to enable offshore choices. Yet another element, Houston stated, was that participants — who had lengthy observed investing in mandatory retirement plans as anything tax-totally free that could possibly not come back to them — started to see the retirement automobile much more like a 401(k) program in the U.S. that could are later in life. Ultimately, lots of nations started supplying extensive solutions to state-mandated applications so that participants could voluntarily make “major-up” investments.

“Now rapid forward to these days,” Houston stated. “In a mandatory program it really is one particular size fits all — it really is definitely really hard to differentiate.” So exactly where does the differentiation come from? Asset Management.”

Houston stated the international asset management transform announced this February “is all about framing it so that when we go to market place in Chile, Mexico, Brazil, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia … it comes in complete force right here as a international asset manager .”

“And by the way,” he added, “we also give records administration, compliance, testing and participant solutions — but in these mandated models, they appear very equivalent.”

In the US also

In the US, exactly where Principal maintains records for more than 12 million participants, the story is somewhat equivalent in terms of supplying asset management and investment solutions to retirement savers, according to Houston.

In the US, the business has “fallen into a bit of an attitude that the job of retirement is record maintaining. But not definitely,” he stated. “What is it definitely about?” It is about asset management. It is jet fuel for the firm.”

Principal does as a lot operate associated to just the DC investments as complete record maintaining, Houston noted. These include things like offerings such as target date solution, mid-cap solution, tiny-cap solution and fixed revenue solution for certified pension plans, and separately, investment sleeves on important commingled investment platforms.

“Retirement is also conveniently wrapped up in ‘they’re the scorekeepers,'” Houston stated. “When we assume about retirement, we assume about how we give solutions that are appropriate for a certified retirement program, lengthy-term, that preserve capital.” If you appear at our assets of more than $600 billion below management and $1.five billion below custody, they are pension-associated in some kind — the bulk of it is ERISA.


Whilst Houston thinks Principal is effectively-ready for the accumulation phase of retirement, he stated the firm is also focused along with the rest of the business on how to far better address decumulation. In that case, he sees the market place continuing to move toward institutional pricing, in annuity plans that give a assured paycheck in retirement.

He agreed that this solution in the program wants time ahead of it is place into mass use. But he noted that these days investment choices in certified retirement plans are vetted by program trustees as effectively as a third-celebration provider, and that a rigorous procedure is typically involved.

“If you assume about it, you are going to have to have that exact same form of mechanism and procedure for annuities in the program,” he stated. “So I assume we’ll finish up competing there with an institutionally placed item … it really is going to take time, but I assume that is exactly where points are going.”

Houston sees retirement revenue management continuing to evolve in the coming years, in component due to the fact for the duration of these client meetings he attends, “the subject of monetary safety and retirement is often there,” he stated. “You cannot get away from it.”

At the moment, Principal oversees 45,000 client plans and has much more than 155,000 SMB relationships by means of other employer solutions. Houston says that though these customers are served by unique touchpoints, they are all connected in some way to asset management.

“We’ve under no circumstances been a monoline small business,” he stated. “There is a lot of overlap with our tiny and medium organizations that have each retirement organizing and positive aspects.” We have the biggest ESOP practice due to the fact we are in the retirement small business. We are the biggest player in the non-certified deferred compensation space, why? Since we’re in the retirement small business. We are the biggest administrator of defined advantage plans, why? Since we’re in the retirement small business. And we’re in the asset management small business due to the fact just about every one particular of these organizations wants asset management.”

By Editor