Originally based on the East Coast, Fidelity and Guaranty Life Insurance's move of its headquarters to Des Moines five years ago was meant to take advantage of the Iowa's low cost of living, business-friendly climate and abundant workforce of insurance professionals.
F&G has since rapidly grown its presence in Des Moines. Last year, the company hired nearly 100 new positions and relocated almost 20 current employees to Des Moines with the prediction of even more additions in the future.
As F&G continues to grow and diversify their workforce and services, President and CEO Chris Blunt has nothing but appreciation for the company's new home.
What prompted the move of F&G's headquarters to Iowa? How did F&G "discover" Des Moines?
I spent the bulk of my career on the east coast, near Hartford, Connecticut, which was known as the insurance capital of the world. But now the insurance hub is here in the Heartland. We established our presence in Des Moines back in late 2013. We've since hired over 225 employees here, anticipate hiring 75-100 more in the next 12-18 months and couldn't be more excited to be relocating our headquarters to the 801 Grand building later this year. We are committed to attracting and retaining top talent and being a part of the great Des Moines community.
You like to refer to your personal transition from the East Village of New York to the East Village of Des Moines. What benefits has the move to Iowa presented so far?
From the business side, there are several benefits we've been able to leverage to recruit new talent. In addition to Des Moines and Iowa offering a business-friendly environment, the city and state also represent an attractive lifestyle and affordable place to live. Because of this, we're able to attract talent from across the country, not just locally. In fact, we've recruited 18 transplants to Des Moines in the past year. F&G also offers opportunities to grow your career with a diverse set of roles (for example, several actuarial and information technology positions) at a growing company. Our mission is to help more and more people turn their aspirations into reality, and we're looking for professionals who want to join us in pursuit of this social good.
On the personal side, I love the fact that I can walk to work and have a ton of great running trails to choose from.
What are some things that surprised you about Iowa and/or Des Moines? How has F&G engaged with its new community?
Community engagement is obviously quite strong here in Iowa. It's always been important to me, and it's clear that my colleagues at F&G share that passion as well. We offer volunteer time off for each employee to use either through corporate-organized events or through organizations they feel passionate about on their own, and I'm impressed by the way our employees participate.
What surprised me about Iowa and Des Moines? I'd say the culture -- it has a great restaurant and arts scene that I've been really impressed with. My wife Gretchen commented that we already have a local go-to restaurant (Alba), which we like better than any of our favorite haunts in Manhattan. I'd also say it's easy to forget how friendly people in the Midwest are. I grew up in Detroit but spent 25 years in the NYC area. I'm most struck by the genuine care our employees show one another -- it's well beyond simply being a good colleague; it's more like an extended family.
What is something you can do in Des Moines that you can't do in New York? Do you have a favorite spot in Des Moines?
That's easy -- get to the airport in 10 minutes! My first flight out of Des Moines, I arrived two hours before my flight left. Even the TSA folks were teasing me (nicely, of course). I'd also say pretty much anyone in the local business community will take your call. Dan Houston swung by my office in my first few weeks to welcome me to town and said I could call any CEO in town and they'd not only return my call, but they'd be excited to meet with me. And that's actually been my experience. Same is true for local officials from the greater Des Moines partnership to the Insurance Commissioner. I think the strong relationships are part of Des Moines' true competitive advantages and is why the city is thriving.