Financial services giant TIAA looking to serve Colorado customers in more down-to-earth way
October 11, 2018 by N/A
TIAA isn’t as well known as Fidelity Investments or Charles Schwab, but the financial giant manages $1.2 trillion in assets, including more than $4 billion locally, and counts around 150,000 customers in the state.
And it leans heavily on its Denver workforce of 1,500, its second biggest base after Charlotte, N.C., to keep its customers happy. Those workers are tucked away on 14 of the 35 floors of 1670 Broadway, answering calls and online queries from around the country.
After 30 years in downtown Denver, the financial service firm finally opened its own street-level store front this summer following a major renovation. And it has branched beyond annuities and other retirement investments to offer banking services and mortgages.
“It made sense to have a storefront,” said Roger Ferguson, president and CEO of the financial services firm. “Customers used to have to go up to the 33rd floor.”
Ferguson was the vice chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank under Alan Greenspan from 1999 to 2006.
Among the achievements he is recognized for was getting the Federal Open Markets Committee, which sets interest rate policy, to be more clear and timely in its communications.
If Ferguson promoted transparency while at the Fed, he has promoted accessibility since taking over at TIAA in 2008. Hence the Denver storefront where customers can walk in and get help, as well as last year’s purchase of a consumer and commercial bank, EverBank Financial Corp.
“We have this desire to get people to and through retirement,” Ferguson said. And if that means getting an instructor moving to a new college a mortgage when other lenders won’t provide one, the rebranded TIAA Bank can make that happen, he said.
The environment of low interest rates that followed the financial crisis made it harder for retirees to earn a safe return on their investments. It has pushed more people into equities, where, as Wednesday’s big drop in the market shows, the ride can get bumpy.
With yields on bonds low, TIAA has achieved higher returns in part through investments in real estate and alternative assets. TIAA is the world’s fourth largest owner of commercial properties, and it has stakes locally in Flatiron Crossing in Broomfield, Blue Ridge at Palomino Park in Highlands Ranch and Sky 2905 in Denver.
TIAA also has several unconventional holdings. For example, it is a leading investor in agriculture, which has made it a top grower of wine grapes in the U.S.
The higher returns from those investments, which the average retiree would have a hard time accessing, fund the annuities that TIAA has been known for since Andrew Carnegie launched it a century ago to help workers in higher education and nonprofits save for retirement.
Like a pension, annuities can provide retirees a set payment stream for life without having to juggle investments. But they typically come loaded with fees and high costs, something TIAA avoids.
The bulk of TIAA’s investments are more conventional. In Colorado, they include $1.88 billion in the equity of companies like Molson Coors Brewing, Newmont Mining, Dish Network and Western Union. It also owns $1.43 billion in bonds of local companies including Ball Corp., Whiting Petroleum, Arrow Electronics and Colorado Interstate Gas.