Principal Financial says specialty benefits sales were strong. (Photo: Thinktock)

Principal Financial Group Inc., a life insurer that has become a major money manager, says strong sales, strong client retention and careful expense management helped it increase earnings in the fourth quarter.

The Des Moines, Iowa-based company is reporting $318 million in net income for the fourth quarter on $592 billion in assets under management, up from $254 million in net income on $527 billion in assets for the fourth quarter of 2015.

Related: 14 of the most recognizable retirement brands

Pre-tax operating earnings at the U.S. insurance operations increased to $107 million, from $87 million. 

The individual life unit generated $35 million in operating earnings on $249 million in premiums and fees, up from $30 million in operating earnings on $239 million in premium fees.

The specialty benefits unit, which sells products such as disability insurance, dental insurance and vision insurance, produced $72 million in operating earnings on $479 million in premiums and fees, up from $57 million in operating earnings on $439 million in premiums and fees.

Premiums and fees were up 4 percent for the life business and 9 percent for the specialty benefits business.

The increase at the specialty benefits business was “driven by strong persistency and record sales,” the company says. “In addition, the division continues to benefit from favorable loss ratios.”

Related:

Principal names Houston to expand $540 billion asset manager

Principal boosts staff first time since 2007

We’re on Facebook, are you?