Lee Launer, Jr.
Lee Launer, Jr.

 

Lee Launer Jr., the CEO of Greater Des Moines' newest insurance company, may someday call downtown Des Moines home in more than one way.

 

Following a ribbon-cutting ceremony Thursday for Fidelity & Guaranty Life, which just moved in to the 14th floor of Two Ruan Center, Launer said he's considering buying a downtown condominium unit as at least a part-time residence as the company settles into its new home in Iowa.    

 

Launer said he thinks a downtown condo would be an "excellent" personal investment, and that the company may buy condos for use by the many people it will bring into the city. As the recently minted public company recruits its executive team locally, they will make Des Moines their home base as well, he said.

 

Greater Des Moines' depth of available insurance talent was hands-down the biggest factor that led the company to move its headquarters from Baltimore to Des Moines, Launer told the Business Record.

 

"You need people who have an education and experience in the business to do the business right, and there are many more of them here than most places in the United States," he said. "I don't how it got that way, but you have them here. Yes, we have to compete with everybody else in town who wants them too, but we will, and we will hire them."  

 

From his perspective, though, downtown could still use a few more amenities.

 

"You've got to get a Whole Foods downtown," he said. "And you need about two more restaurants, and you need some bigger planes coming in to the airport," he said. "If you can get that, you guys are golden around here."

 

Fidelity & Guaranty, which specializes in selling fixed indexed annuities, has pledged to base at least 30 percent of its employees within the state within the next three years. It has room for 55 people on Two Ruan Center's 14th floor and could expand by that much on the 13th floor, Launer said.

 

To fuel its growth, Fidelity & Guaranty completed an initial public offering of stock last month to raise additional capital to support its annuity sales. The company's annuity products appeal to Baby Boomers nearing retirement age as a relatively safe haven to lock in their money in return for a guaranteed income stream.  

 

"To grow our sales, that eats up capital because we have to back each of those blocks of sales with capital," Launer said. "Now we have lots of capital to grow."

 

Launer said downtown services - from hotels and restaurants to taxis and caterers - will see a nice influx of new business as the company shuttles in staff and clients.

 

"We really like this situation," he said, seated in a boardroom in the building. "We really like the skywalk. It's great for our employees and it's safe - and it's close to three or four hotels. And it's a short drive to the airport. We wanted to be downtown, and it feels perfect."