10 Best Winners Showcase Benefit Best Practices

October 16, 2006 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - Some of the best employee benefit practices were acknowledged today, as the Principal Financial Group unveiled the 2006 winners of The Principal 10 Best Companies for Employee Financial Security.

It’s the fifth year that The Principal has sponsored the program that honors growing businesses (five to 1,000 employees) that offer excellent benefit programs that give employees an edge on achieving long-term financial security. The program is open to all employers, not just clients of the Principal.

The independent panel of judges – which included PLANSPONSOR Editor-in-Chief Nevin Adams, the Employee Benefit Research Institute’s (EBRI) Dallas Salisbury, David Wray of the Profit Sharing/401(k) Council of America, and Dan McCarthy, consulting actuary at Milliman USA – praised the companies for their ongoing commitment to a broad range of benefits programs. Judges also cited the winners for innovation in expanding wellness programs, “auto pilot” retirement savings options and personalized employee benefit guidance at the worksite, according to a Principal press release.

This year’s winners come from a variety of industries including manufacturing, utilities, marketing, agriculture, engineering, and financial services. The companies range in size from 80 to over 898 full- and part-time employees.

The Principal 10 Best Companies-2006 are:

Argon ST, Inc. , Fairfax, Va.;

Central Iowa Power Cooperative , Cedar Rapids, Iowa;

ITAGroup. Inc ., West Des Moines, Iowa;

Eastern Financial Florida Credit Union , Miramar, Florida;

GTE Federal Credit Union , Tampa, Florida.;

Howalt-McDowell Insurance, Inc., Sioux Falls, South Dakota;

McNaughton & Gunn , Saline, Michigan;

Farm Bureau Family of Companies , Lansing, Michigan;

Wells Real Estate Funds, Inc., Norcross, Georgia, and

West Bend Mutual Insurance Company , West Bend, Wisconsin.

Profiles of the winners can be found at www.principal.com . A summary of best practices gleaned from the winners will be published in a Best Practices Guide in January 2007.

Judges cited these key trends among this year's winners:

  • An expanded commitment to wellness programs
  • More auto pilot retirement savings options (all but one of the winners currently make target date or life time investment options available in their 401(k) plans).
  • Growing focus on retirement income security:
  • Stronger education and workplace guidance (nearly every company provides some kind of one-on-one benefit guidance or financial planning at the worksite; some pay for personal investment advice).

Companies were evaluated based on benefits the judges deemed most important in contributing to employee long-term financial security, including:

  • retirement plans;
  • strong medical coverage, including significant premium subsidies by employers;
  • long-term disability options;
  • group life insurance;
  • accidental death and dismemberment coverage;
  • medical and retirement packages for part-time employees; and
  • effective communication methods to help employees maximize the benefit options.

Judges selected winning companies based on the breadth of their benefits offerings - how well they cover major life events such as retirement and disability; and the depth of their benefits offerings - how much the company contributes in terms of matches or premiums. The judges also considered the overall commitment to employee financial security as demonstrated by how the company aligns its benefits to the specific needs of its employees and how the company helps employees understand and utilize their benefits.

The panel of judges also included Karen Ignani, president & CEO, America's Health Insurance Plans; Corey Rosen, executive director, National Center for Employee Ownership; as well as Nancy Ayres, general manager, Clipper Belt Lacer Company, and Jeffrey McAulay, vice president, Moran Towing - the latter two firms were among the winners of the 2005 award (see Ten Firms Walk Away with Principal Employee Security Award at http://www.plansponsor.com/pi_type10/?RECORD_ID=30914 ).

Entry forms for the 2007 recognition program will be available in February 2007.

For more information, visit The Principal 10 Best Web site at http://www.principal.com/theprincipal10best/index.htm