Principal Financial Group Consumer Reviews
DES MOINES, IOWA -- We "had" Principal for Dental through my husband employer. Absolutely the greediest insurance. I had a proven cracked tooth (right down the middle) and need not only a crown but later a root canal as the tooth was cracked down the middle. My insurance covered the 50% and Principal refused to cover their portion because there wasn't enough evidence. So after the appeals and several amazing pictures to show the cracked tooth they still said they wouldn't cover because there wasn't enough deterioration of the tooth. I might add it was incredibly painful.
I called and they had a very unprofessional administrative person tell me the pictures were terrible and wouldn't give me the name to the person whom decided my tooth wasn't bad enough. Our bill was 1200 and my insurance covered 500. They refused and then relinquished $24. TWENTY FOUR. I'm so unsatisfied and irritated. They are horrible and I would never choose them again for any insurance at all.
IOWA -- I purchased and paid on a group coverage employee benefit long-term disability policy through Principal Financial Services for years. When PFG first approached my company to offer their financial services products, my employer really leaned on all the employees to take out this company's LTD policy coverage because the company needed at least 15 employees to enroll in the plan in order to have PFG LTD coverage in the first place; and, the more employees who elected to buy LTD policies from PFG, the lower the monthly premium costs would be for each individual employee enrolled.
I was one of the first employees to elect to take this coverage. Having been a single parent for years, I was always worried about what would happen if I became disabled and couldn't work. Then the worst happened in 2007 and I became totally disabled. I had my short term disability policy through Aflac. When I applied for these benefits, they paid me promptly. I then applied for, and received, my social security disability benefits. They were very quick to approve me within 4 months of my initial application online. But I have yet to collect one dime on my Principal Financial Group LTD policy!
No one tells you when you sign up and pay for this type of coverage that all group insurance benefit policies are governed under the federal ERISA laws. Group policies are not regulated by the insurance laws in your individual states which would offer the consumer more protection.
The ERISA laws were originally drafted to protect the consumer and to compel the insurance companies to process claims quickly, in 90 days or less. Sounds good; but, in reality, the ERISA laws have so many loopholes in them that protect the insurance companies, not the consumer, that insurance companies can drag out paying on a group coverage claim for a very long time.
There are no provisions in the ERISA laws for a consumer to get punitive damages from the insurance company if they willfully keep denying a claim for the most ridiculous of reasons; and, you can't get any interest on the money they owe you if they withhold paying you for years and years. The ERISA laws actually work to the insurance companies' advantage if they drag out paying their LTD claims for as long as they possibly can.
Even with an attorney to fight for you, the insurance companies know that they can play this game for a good long time. There is nothing anyone can do about it unless and until you go to court to collect. And ERISA attorneys will take 30% to 50% of your back benefits when you do eventually collect. Remember that! An attorney has every motivation to drag out an ERISA claim for as long as they possibly can also! Dragging out the processing of your ERISA claim just increases the percentage of their contingency fee! So now whose really looking out for the consumer's interest? Nobody!
I am almost 2 years down the road trying to collect on my LTD policy from PFG. My attorney tells me they will make me a lump sum settlement offer after all the claims and appeals processes are over and right before we are due to go to court.
Meanwhile, expect to be followed around by a PFG paid private investigator who will attempt to gather photographic "evidence" to dispute your claim. Whatever "evidence" they do manage to collect on you will be used against you later to intimidate you into taking a small "settlement offer". Of course the settlement offer is only a fraction of what you would collect if PFG were to actually pay you the promised monthly disability benefits (until age 66, which is all your covered for under their policies). At age 66 you fall back on SSA benefits only and PFG will cease to pay. A disability policy is not the same as a retirement policy, keep that in mind.
Did I mention PFG also makes you assign all your monthly SSA checks over to them until age 66 IF you are so lucky as to actually collect a monthly benefit check from them? Reduce the monthly benefit amount showing on your policy by the amount of SSA benefits you would or do receive. That's the actual dollar amount PFG would pay you, if you ever get paid anything at all. If you take the settlement offer, which most people do after all this grief, they'll make you sign a gag order so that the length of time it took for PFG to settle your LTD claim will never be a matter of public record.
That way, when consumers try to determine PFG's track record on their claims, and the time it took to actually process and pay on PFG claims, the public record will look like all PFG claims were processed and paid within the 90 days allowed by ERISA law.
Pretty sharp, huh? They have some great attorneys working for them. And, from what I see on the internet, PFG spends the most lobbying dollars of any insurance company you could choose out there with similar products to ensure that our lawmakers never close up the loopholes in the existing ERISA laws. Beware Principal Financial Group LTD policies. In my opinion they are not worth the paper they're written on.
DES OINS, IOWA -- I retired March 31, 2010. My former employer kindly permitted me to continue existing health and dental insurance policies at my own expense until 9.1.11 when I will turn 65. Dental insurance was through Principal Financial Group (P). P was fully advised of my retirement status. However, at no time did P inform either my former employer or me of its intention to terminate my insurance coverage on March 31, 2011 (or at any other time).
Here's my complaint. Having failed to disclose an (apparently covert and) impending termination of coverage, P knowingly delayed processing my request for payment predetermination of (clearly covered) dental procedures until it was able to deny coverage on the ground the policy had been terminated. In other words, P sought to escape paying its fair share of a clearly covered dental procedure by figuratively scratching its head and shuffling its feet for nearly 2 months before jumping up and shouting "GOTCHA."
Where I'm from that behavior is often described as lying in the weeds. It's not conduct one expects of a company that promotes itself as ethical and relies on the goodwill of its customers. Here's what happened. February 8, 2011, my dentist's office submitted to P a full and complete predetermination request for replacement of failed abutment fixtures and crowns for 2 dental implants that were almost 15 years old. Principal waited almost a month, until March 4, before requesting extensive additional information. My dentist's office promptly supplied the additional information, while privately noting the request seemed a bit out of the ordinary.
My dentist's office advises that approximately a week later (this would have been toward the middle of March), Principal submitted yet ANOTHER request for further information. (By then shaking its collective head), my dentist's office supplied the further information requested. Principal says it received this information in April. In late April I received from P a denial of coverage based upon an asserted policy termination date of March 31. Totally surprised, I asked my former employer whether it had been advised of the March 31 (or any other) policy termination date. It had not.
I immediately filed with P a written request for reconsideration based on the company's delayed handling of my request and its failure to disclose its intention to terminate my policy. No reply. I phoned the company perhaps 10 days later. A representative told me no one would respond to my inquiry “because the policy is terminated.” HUH?? I then filed a request for assistance and reconsideration through the Principal Financial Group website. Several weeks later, I received a reply letter.
The letter denied P had made a second request for information. It altogether failed to address the company's failure to disclose its impending, seemingly covert policy termination date. It found “unfortunate that your predetermination wasn't filed to allow ample time to receive any information necessary for review,” and asserted, “We strive to process all correspondence in an accurate and timely manner.” In other words, “Piss off.”
I don't know whether P had a legal obligation to disclose the policy termination date, but it certainly had an ethical obligation to do so. I don't know whether, under the circumstances, seriatim requests for arguably unnecessary information over the course of more than 2 months constitutes unconscionable stalling, but even my mild mannered and eminently fair dentist found it disingenuous and more than a bit untoward.
Whether or not Principal Financial crossed any legal lines in this matter, to me one thing seems absolutely clear. A company that callously advances its financial interests over those of its own clients in matters of relative monetary insignificance such as this one is not a company I would ever trust to manage my current finances or the future security of my family. Simply a word, I should hope, to the wise.
NEW JERSEY -- In September 2008, my husband requested Principal Financial Group to move all the money he has invested in U.S. Sep. Account into another investment account. They did not grant my husband's request. They told my husband there would be a delay in moving the money out of that account because they are currently not honoring his or anyone's request for changes to this account. In the meantime, since January we lost over $15,000. We should be able to move our money from one account to another account. We did not sign a contract with them and we believe this is illegal.
Recently I decided to enroll in a 401k program through my current employer. I was trying to enroll online to the 401k program which was unsuccessful then called customer service. A guy with the name of Spencer came on the phone line. I explained to him that I couldn't login. He proceeded to ask for my name, social security number. I gave him my information. Then he asked me for my contract number which I didn't have. He came back with a very sarcastic voice telling me "If you don't have a contract number I can't help you." I asked to speak with his manager because I felt he was being rude to me. He told the managers name was Spencer that he was the manager.
Thanks to customer service representatives companies like Principal has lost customers like me because I decided to maybe discontinue my 401k program with them.
CTO Corner: Artificial Intelligence Use in Financial Services
Artificial Intelligence (AI), defined as the theory and development of computer systems able to perform tasks that normally require human intelligence, such as visual perception, speech recognition, decision-making, and translation between languages, has been around for over 60 years. 1 In his 1950 paper "Computing Machinery and Intelligence," Alan Turing opens with: "I propose to consider the question 'can machines think?'" 2 He proposed a test of a machine’s ability to exhibit intelligent behavior, equivalent to, or indistinguishable from, that of a human being, which is now known as the Turing Test. 3 AI as an academic discipline began at the famous 1955 Dartmouth conference organized by John McCarthy from Stanford University and Marvin Minsky from MIT. 4 This CTO Corner explores both the potential for AI to transform the financial services industry and challenges it presents.
CTO Corner is BITS’s monthly publication covering emerging trends and technologies in the financial services industry.
Artificial Intelligence Use in Financial Services
Dan Schutzer, Senior Technology Consultant, BITS
Artificial Intelligence (AI), defined as the theory and development of computer systems able to perform tasks that normally require human intelligence, such as visual perception, speech recognition, decision-making, and translation between languages, has been around for over 60 years. 1 In his 1950 paper “Computing Machinery and Intelligence,” Alan Turing opens with: “I propose to consider the question ‘can machines think?'” 2 He proposed a test of a machine’s ability to exhibit intelligent behavior, equivalent to, or indistinguishable from, that of a human being, which is now known as the Turing Test. 3 AI as an academic discipline began at the famous 1955 Dartmouth conference organized by John McCarthy from Stanford University and Marvin Minsky from MIT. 4 This CTO Corner explores both the potential for AI to transform the financial services industry and challenges it presents.
Since its inception, AI has experienced at least two major hype cycles 5 with resulting winters 6 of disillusionment. Back in the early 1980’s when I joined Citibank’s Investment Bank to help build expert systems, a branch of AI that emulates the decision-making ability of a human expert, many other Wall Street firms set up similar projects during that era. 7 Although I and others deployed a number of successful applications, by the 1990’s, AI went into its second winter of disillusionment as realization set in that these systems were harder and more costly to build and maintain than first anticipated. 8 AI appears to be entering a new phase where interest is surging again. An example of this is the sharp increase in the commercial use of AI, also known as machine intelligence, such as IBM’s Watson. 9 As another indicator, the vast majority of respondents to the 2014 Future of the Internet study anticipate that robotics and machine intelligence will permeate wide segments of daily life by 2025 with huge implications for a range of industries. 10 Will the latest surge of AI applications in the financial services fall short again or will they this time truly transform the financial services industry? 11
Several things have changed, including the cost of computing has declined dramatically and the power of computing has improved exponentially, making AI applications, which tend to be computational and “data hogs,” more practical. Social networks, mobile phones and the emergence of wearable consumer devices have created an explosion of data needed to feed the data hungry AI engines, and, in turn, enable them to operate at peak performance. Furthermore, this explosion of data is so vast and overwhelming that it has become impossible to understand it without intelligent automated support. Advances in analytics, especially advances in machine learning with the needed computational power now available to support them, make AI systems more adaptable and easier to develop and implement. Finally, despite its “winters,” the AI technology base has continued to grow exponentially, albeit quietly, with each advance building on another to the point where its impact is now becoming apparent. It may now be at a point where further significant and unexpected changes are likely to occur. 12
Technology companies have already developed algorithms that track a user’s online habits, creating deeply personal online experiences. For example, when searching for information, whether for research, pleasure, or necessity, Google displays results according to its relevancy algorithm. The search engine usually ends up providing the user only what he/she wants to read. Users are increasingly exposed to customized context-sensitive information and advice derived by systems that collect and analyze users’ past actions, often with the users not aware of this happening. 13 The implications for the financial sector is that by tracking users’ habits, activities, and behavioral characteristics, financial data and products can be personalized to meet and anticipate each user’s unique and changing needs. This makes it practical for each user to have his/her own digital personal financial assistant.
Potential Use Cases for AI
The following are examples of how AI might be deployed in financial services:
Personalized Financial Services
Because of the increased customized automation, the financial institution can offer more personalized services in near real-time at lower costs. We already are starting to see a number of successful new applications that provide hints as to where the industry may be heading. Consider the following examples of applications that are being developed and deployed:
• Automated financial advisors and planners that assist users in making financial decisions. These include monitoring events and stock and bond price trends against the user’s financial goals and personal portfolio and making recommendations regarding stocks and bonds to buy or sell. These systems are often called “robo advisors” and are increasingly being offered both by start-ups and established financial service providers. 14
• Digital and wealth management advisory services offered to lower net worth market segments, resulting in lower fee-based commissions. 15
• Smart wallets that monitor and learn users’ habits and needs and alert and coach users, when appropriate, to show restraint and to alter their personal finance spending and saving behaviors (e.g., Wallet.AI). 16
• Insurance underwriting AI systems that automate the underwriting process and utilize more granular information to make better decisions. 17
• Data-driven AI applications to make better informed lending decisions. 18 19
• Applications, embedded in end-user devices, personal robots, and financial institution servers that are capable of analyzing massive volumes of information, providing customized financial advice, calculations and forecasts. These applications also can develop financial plans and strategies, and track their progress. This includes research regarding various customized investment opportunities, loans, rates and fees.
• Automated agents that assist the user, over the Internet, in determining insurance needs. 20
• Trusted financial social networks that allow the user to find other users who are willing to pool their money to make loans to each other, and to share in investments.
New Management Decision-making
Data-driven management decisions at lower cost could lead to a new style of management, where future banking and insurance leaders will ask the right questions to machines, rather than to human experts, which will analyze the data to come up with the recommended decisions that leaders and their subordinates will use and motivate their workforce to execute. 21
Reducing Fraud and Fighting Crime
AI tools which learn and monitor users’ behavioral patterns to identify anomalies and warning signs of fraud attempts and occurrences, along with collection of evidence necessary for conviction are also becoming more commonplace in fighting crime.
As businesses begin to rely more on data-driven AI applications, these new applications lead to new business issues, security, and privacy concerns, including:
• How will they differentiate themselves?
• How does a user distinguish one automated on-line banking application from another?
• How can one benchmark and rank the quality of the recommendations?
• Which financial institution and application will the user trust to provide access to his/her financial details across financial institutions?
• Will more comprehensive access to data across institutions result in better advice?
• How can this be demonstrated?
• Is the speed of execution, the ability to act and provide information in real or near-real time, more important, or equal in importance to the recommendations?
• Given that AI systems can also explain their recommendations. How important is the ability to explain the recommendations in a convincing and understandable manner?
• How easy will the system be to use?
Most likely all of the above will be qualities that will determine which financial institutions’ products and services will prevail in the marketplace.
Security and Privacy Concerns
• When things fail, or AI applications are attacked and access denied, or resulting recommendations tampered with, the consequences could be devastating.
• If applications get compromised or tampered with, the user will get poor or false advice.
• If the user can’t identify an application as genuine and valid with a high level of assurance, the user could be handing personal information and goals over to the wrong applications or act on malicious or bad advice.
• Is there an equivalent for a “Series 7” certification for a robot advisor, and who is liable when providing inappropriate advice?
• Likewise, if the applications can’t identify their users with high enough assurance, criminals could successfully impersonate the real user and convince the program to turn over sensitive data, or to take instructions from the wrong person.
• It could result, among other things, in lost funds, reduced eligibility for loans and insurance and destroyed reputations.
• How do we assess and audit the financial institutions and third parties that develop and run these applications?
Privacy could become an even bigger deal in the future. The data used to make advice and recommendations more relevant can also be used for purposes that could be considered an invasion of a person’s privacy. On one hand, users appreciate the advantages of having one-on-one experiences with companies. That’s how, through alerts and other techniques, they quickly find what they need online and manage their money better on each individual transaction. On the other hand, analytics empowers businesses to collect and use consumer data in ways that were unimaginable just a few years ago. Such dynamics are creating a “perfect storm” when it comes to consumer privacy, with a broad range of developing conflicts, trends and ethical challenges that demonstrates the vast complexities of this issue. To provide some insight, Constellation Research has published “Privacy Enters Adolescence” 22 , which concludes that consumers have not given up on privacy, they have been tricked out of it, and that the land grab for public and personal data is accelerating. The financial services industry needs to better understand these privacy issues and how they may intersect with, among other things, various U.S. federal and State consumer protection and privacy laws 23 and Europe’s EU Directive 95/36/EC (the so-called “EU Cookie Directive”). Would it help if, as Alex Pentland, Director, Media Lab Entrepreneurship Program, suggests, financial institutions were to provide users with a dashboard that showed what they know about you and what they share, and you could turn it off or on? 24
Programs endowed with this much intelligence can evolve in ways that can be detrimental and not in the users self-interest. We’ve all seen science fiction movies like 2001: A Space Odyssey and The Matrix, where the villain is an AI program that has gone rogue. These scenarios have entertained us at the cinema for decades, but some scientists are now warning that businesses must heed these potential scenarios seriously. Nick Bostrom who directs Oxford’s Future of Humanity Institute, explains in his book, Superintelligence, how a super smart robot could arise and destroy us. 25 Other luminaries such as Stephen Hawking, Bill Gates and Elon Musk also warn of the potential dangers that AI can bring. 26
Another concern for financial institutions is how regulators will respond and supplement guidance on use of AI. Federal financial regulators have issued extensive supervisory guidance on use of information technology generally and security, privacy, vendor management and resiliency specifically which require financial institutions to assess the risk and develop adequate controls. As the number of AI applications increases, regulators are likely to focus more on the use of AI and to identify deficiencies in controls.
Because of the significant potential benefits there is probably no turning back, there will be increasing automation of financial services, often employing AI technology. However, these new AI applications introduce a number of business, security and privacy issues which will have to be addressed if they are to succeed in the marketplace. It will be important to ensure that these intelligent applications are developed in in a way that they will provide the desired benefit and that the user can trust the advice and services provided. It will be important to be able to detect and isolate infected or malicious AI programs immediately, and develop the effective policy and laws for governing their development and use, so that personal information is safeguarded and not misused. This includes technology and policy with respect to what constitutes liability, how to best audit these systems, and how to design and control AI systems for human safety.27