Alison Smith, MSM, MBA, CRPS®, AIF®
Vice President, Principal Securities
I love the retirement industry because … the retirement industry is an area of finance that you have the opportunity to make an impact on many people in a material way. Everything we do impacts the livelihood of our clients and their future retirement success. For me specifically, I also love the opportunity to work with financial professionals to leverage retirement plans to make their businesses successful. It is one area in financial services where the financial professional can have an extended reach to many people who need the knowledge and support that they can provide while also having a financially successful personal career at the same time.
How important is it for you to be a role model to the upcoming generation of women in the retirement industry? Too frequently in the past women looked at other women as competition—and it still happens today. I want to be seen as someone who shifts that dynamic and help empowers other women (and men too!) to achieve the greatest level of success in the industry and to reach their full potential. With the next generation of men and women, I hope that they see women in finance as not unusual, but as expected and desired.
How do you see WIPN affecting positive change in your career or industry? When I started in the retirement industry over 20 years ago, there were very few women. Studies have shown that women in finance have a positive effect on the industry and on individuals’ retirement. Having a network to support women and encourage their growth and success will make sure that the dynamic shifts and the market gains benefits all in a diverse industry.
My first job in the retirement industry was… at Principal! I worked briefly for American Express financial advisors in diversified financial services, but came to Principal in our Washington DC office, transferred to the NYC office, and have been with the company for 20 years!
What has been your most rewarding accomplishment during your career? I have a dual role as both a producer and a manager. It is hard to point to any one thing, but the greatest accomplishments that I have made are in helping my teams achieve their career goals. Be it in achieving financial success and walking across the winner’s stage as a top producer or moving into a leadership position, it always makes me feel that what I do matters when I see them achieve the next level of success in their lives.
Heather Bailey, AIF
Vice President, State Street Global Advisors
What has been your most rewarding accomplishment during your career? For me, speaking about State Street’s Fearless Girl initiative on multiple national stages is about as good as it gets! What she stands for, has created, and continues to project forward is a movement in itself.
How important is it for you to be a role model for the upcoming generation of women in the retirement industry? It is really important to be a role model to everyone in the retirement industry, not just women. We have so much work to do beyond gender in terms of diversity. The most important thing I can do in terms of being a role model is to be an inclusive & positive member of our industry. Diversity with inclusivity is the new challenge, and women are well equipped to lead the charge. I also strongly believe in being a mentor. I have & have had some of the best mentors, without whom I can guarantee I would have gone bust in this industry a long time ago. I want to be that positive light for anyone who has an interest in our little industry.
I love the retirement industry because ... aside from taking care of our minds and bodies, saving for retirement is one of the most important things we can do for our future selves. Since we now know that financial health dramatically impacts mental and physical health, it’s likely the single best thing we can do for our future. I find it so interesting how every person I speak to has a different perspective on money & saving. Just like every person is unique, everyone’s relationship with, history, and perspective on money is unique. Our industry is constantly evolving, bending & shaping to help individuals form better & more positive relationships with money. We enhance the futures of millions, and that is pretty cool.
How do you see WIPN affecting positive change in your career or industry? It’s a tough world in the financial industry for anyone bringing diversity to the table—to me, WIPN and the women in it encourage women to stay here a little longer, build deeper roots, and grow taller branches where we might otherwise shrink. WIPN has always provided a platform of respect for women in the industry & a network to fall back on when things get tough. Utilizing the WIPN model, we can expand beyond gender diversity in our industry.
Vice President, Lockton Retirement Services
How do you see WIPN affecting positive change in your career or industry? The retirement industry has traditionally been male-dominated and has tended to have a very specific culture. That said, plenty of women—many of them in WIPN—have effectively navigated that culture. I think learning from their successes will help me grow and develop and, ideally, get to the point where I can help others in the future.
I love the retirement industry because… one of my favorite quotes is Mahatma Gandhi’s “Be the change you wish to see in the world” and I love the retirement industry because it’s an opportunity to help people on a massive scale. Retirement is one of the biggest— and scariest— investments a person can make. What I do is to help take the fear out of the process and, importantly, make people more successful at saving and investing for their future. And, because I do what I do for companies rather than just individuals, the changes I put in place don’t just help a single person, they help all of the employees who work for my clients and benefit from their retirement plans.
My first job in the retirement industry was … as an intern with Lockton Dunning Benefits in Dallas, TX. I enjoyed my time at Lockton and loved the company culture of the “smallest giant” and entrepreneurial spirit, but was passionate about helping others better plan for their future. It was with this initial firm that I was sponsored for my securities licensing and took my first securities test over spring break of my senior year of college which I passed, luckily! I met with Dunning’s founding Retirement Producer Partner and Practice Leader, David Altimont and with great excitement, I joined Lockton Retirement Services as the first full time Dallas-based associate in 2005. Through my dedication to service and commitment to the business and my partners, I have helped grow the Dallas practice from a two-person team, into one of the largest offices in the country that focus on institutional retirement plans exclusively. Today, our teams sits at 22 team members in three different cities and advise on over $17 billion in retirement plan assets.
How important is it for you to be a role model to the upcoming generation of women in the retirement industry? It’s hugely important. While the industry has been white male-dominated, that has definitely begun to change. We’re not only seeing more women in the mix but more people of color and people with different belief systems, as well. Being part of this change is enormously exciting and daunting as well. Mentoring the next generation is an opportunity to not only help women make this transition effectively, but also for me to learn new ideas from young, energetic, and innovative women, as well.
What has been your most rewarding accomplishment during your career? Our practice has been fortunate in that many of our clients have been recognized nationally through various award groups for communication as well as for the overall level of care and support they have provided their participants by way of a retirement plan offering. For me, what provides the most sense of accomplishment is when the industry sees the great work and efforts our plan sponsors do every day to make their employees feel special, value this benefit, and most importantly, enter their retirement years with a sense of dignity and pride.