When Gary Scholten joined Principal Financial Group in 1980 as an assistant planning analyst, he had no inkling that he would rise to a senior IT management position with global reach. But the University of Northern Iowa graduate had chosen the right career path at an opportune time. Most of us got into computer science because we like change, he says. It keeps us energized. Scholten has risen through a progression of information services jobs and since 2002 has been senior vice president and CIO of Des Moinesbased Principal, which has $456.1 billion in assets under management and $9.2 billion in annual operating revenue. Overseeing a global staff of 2,400, the 55-year-old gauges the business impact of technology investments on a balanced scorecard that measures, for example, efficiencies gained from cloud computing or sales generated through a third-party-administrator (TPA) portal. He points to advances that were inconceivable a few years ago, such as integrating the TPA business with sales channels and servicing, and a joint venture with Banco do Brasil that includes digital product distribution. The time to implement is sometimes really short, he notes, so we leverage the fact that were a global business and keep [projects] going 24 hours.
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