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Principal names Houston to expand $540 billion asset manager

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(Bloomberg) — Principal Financial Group Inc., the insurer and investment company with about $540 billion in assets under management, promoted Daniel Houston to chief executive officer, replacing Larry Zimpleman.

Houston, who joined the company in 1984, took over as CEO on Tuesday, the Des Moines, Iowa-based insurer said in a statement Wednesday. Zimpleman, 63, will continue to serve as executive chairman and advise Houston, who was named chief operating officer in 2014 and elected to the board of directors the same year.

The insurer more than quadrupled assets under management since becoming a public company in 2001, as Zimpleman and other executives pushed beyond the U.S. and bolstered investing operations to add fee income. The firm acquired Chilean pension manager AFP Cuprum SA in 2013 and also took a stake in Liongate Capital Management to add hedge funds and Origin Asset Management to expand in emerging markets.

Zimpleman “helped us evolve from a domestic employee benefits company to a global leader in retirement and investment management,” Houston, 54, said in the statement. Principal will “build on our leadership positions in asset management, retirement and protection.”

Principal’s stock declined by more than half in 2008, Zimpleman’s first year as CEO, as the insurer’s investment portfolio lost value in the financial crisis. The company surged more than 150 percent since the end of that year. Principal slipped 1 percent at 9:32 a.m. in New York, matching the decline of the Standard and Poor’s 500 Life & Health Insurance Index.

McCaughan, Strable

Houston will supervise managers including Principal Global Investors CEO Jim McCaughan, retirement head Nora Everett, insurance leader Deanna Strable and Luis Valdes, who runs international operations. The company said in March that it was seeking to expand in nations including Brazil and Mexico.

A graduate of Iowa State University, Houston joined Principal in 1984 as a sales representative in the Dallas office. He was named president of retirement and investor services in 2008.

–With assistance from Sarah Jones in London and Katherine Chiglinsky in New York.


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