Member Spotlight, Sponsors

Q2 2023 Sponsor Member Spotlight


Susan Otto, MBA, QKA, QKC, QPA

Senior Relationship Director

Principal Financial Group

How important is it for you to be a role model for the upcoming generations of women in the retirement industry?  While it’s great to be a role model, it’s far more important for me to be a champion and ally. Coaching is an art. It’s a huge responsibility and honor to be entrusted to give guidance and feedback. It’s something I take very seriously. I’ve been a mentor and mentee, both formally and informally, for years. What I’ve learned from these relationships have been the most important lessons in my professional and personal life.

How did you find WIPN?  I discovered WIPN about seven years ago when a few colleagues invited me along to attend a Philadelphia event. I’ve been enthusiastically engaged ever since. WIPN offers unbelievable networking opportunities. It’s been a great source of information and friendship and has been invaluable as I advanced in my career. The supportive community and collective knowledge help all its members “lift as they climb.”

How did you know that a career in the financial services retirement industry was right for you?  Interestingly, in 1998 I found my way into the financial services industry as a detour from life insurance underwriting back. Finance was not my college major or chosen profession, but it’s been a gratifying journey and an experience I wouldn’t trade, even though I took a bit of meandering path at the beginning of my career to reach this destination.

I was lucky to land at a mutual fund company over 25 years ago to begin building my knowledge. I had already started my MBA with a concentration in Finance, so I knew I wanted to pursue a career in asset management. My first job as a retail phone associate helped me discover how much I loved making meaningful and personal connections with people and what a privilege it was to help them reach their savings goals. That passion prompted a move to the company’s advisory services group for non-profits, and I’ve been in institutional client-facing roles ever since.

Over the years, I’ve worked with both DCIO and full-service plan sponsors, U.S. and international organizations, across a variety of industries. I’ve been in relationship management, communications, sales, marketing and product development; all strategically oriented, leadership roles that played to my communication skills. It’s a fast-paced tempo I enjoy, and my liberal arts background and various experiences outside the financial services industry have served me well. The road to success is not always a straight line.

What changes do you hope to see for women in the retirement industry in the next 5 years?  I’m optimistic that there will be more female representation in senior management roles in the coming years and I’ve seen encouraging diversity strides. I’m also especially proud to work for a company that was recognized on Forbes list of America’s Best Employers for Diversity. Despite this progress, women still hold fewer than one in five positions in the financial services industry C-suite. I’d love to see this expand and be more inclusive. I’m also heartened to see women achieve success in roles traditionally held by men. At the start of my career, there were many times when I was the only woman in the room. I’m now privileged to know and work alongside smart, influential, female executives. Women are now a growing minority leading the charge on strategic initiatives, sales and product development, thought leadership and portfolio management. I think this trend will only accelerate.

Any other thoughts you would like to add?   My advice? Be a renaissance woman. Be intellectually curious. Raise your hand for projects. Make your voice heard. Adopt a growth mindset. Don’t shrink from a challenge. Believe in yourself. Always look to leverage and capitalize on your unique set of skills.