Cara Underwood transforms an internship into a long career
Starting as an intern in 1994 — the company’s second cohort in its well-regarded internship program — Underwood was hired full time in 1995. She’s been there ever since, outlasting her peers in the first and second internship groups. That initial experience was invaluable for Underwood.
“I’m a huge supporter of our internship program,” she said. “I have a son who is currently in college, and I recommended that he get those internship experiences. They will help you launch your future careers. It shows to employers you have the initiative, and it definitely helps you figure out what you want to do with your life.”
Underwood is originally from Waverly, Iowa and grew up in a family of business. Her mother was a banker, and her father worked in insurance. Underwood always liked finance, so she attended UNIBusiness in the early 1990s as a finance major with an emphasis in real estate.
In her junior year, she took time off from school to complete a co-op with Principal, where she worked as an underwriter in the commercial real estate sphere. After graduation in 1995, Underwood was hired back in the same department and worked in the debt side of Principal Real Estate Investors, which is a part of the Principal umbrella.
In 1999, Underwood switched over to the equity side of the department, managing assets rather than debt. At the time, she was the only person in that role, managing two clients and about $5 billion in assets.
“It was a bit scary, but it was a great opportunity,” Underwood said. “It was one of those things where you are doing something that’s never been done before.”
Before long, Underwood had expanded her team and assets. Today, she manages seven employees and 10 clients with about $28 billion in assets. Her team also has grown internationally, advising for investments abroad.
“I love the work that I do, and I love the people I work with,” Underwood said. “This organization is very reputable in what we do in Iowa, and we’re going global with our business. That’s exciting.”