At Putnam, we regularly engage leaders across our partner institutions, in public policy and academia, and beyond. In this edition of Active Voice, Cathy Saunders, Head of Corporate Sustainability and Public Policy, shares key learnings from a recent Women of Putnam event with our institutional partners. The conversation was full of fascinating insights spanning career development, product innovation, and industry evolution, with lessons and relevance for all.
Consultants are critically important to existing and new institutional clients — whether state pension plans, endowments and foundations, private pension funds, or defined contribution (DC) plans. Stewards of this capital use investment consultants like Aon, Callan, and RVK as a bridge between investment managers like Putnam and the client.
Putnam Institutional Partners — A Fireside Chat
Hosted by Cathy Saunders, Head of Corporate Sustainability and Public Policy, Putnam Investments
Moderated by Bonnie Stanfield, Director, Consultant Relations, Putnam Investments
Suzanne Carroll, Senior Consultant and Head of the Defined Contribution Solutions Group, RVK
Kristen Doyle, Partner, Head of Innovation and Business Transformation, Aon Investments USA
Lori Lucas, President, CEO, Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI)
The career journey
Let me begin by asking each of you, as senior leaders, how did you advance to your current positions?
Kaitlin May: I had planned to go to medical school, but the realities of a medical practice were challenging for me. In considering alternatives, I saw investment banks were interviewing on campus, so I studied banking. I later went to work for Smith Barney.
After three years in investment banking and after additional classes in finance and accounting, I worked in mergers and acquisitions. Then I moved to a product development role with the real estate group at Citi’s alternative investment business. From there, I jumped to Apollo and on to Putnam. I had found my passion.
Suzanne Carroll: Continual learning is “my thing.” I’m curious all the time, and I’m always considering my role and how it fits with other parts of a business. I began as a programmer, then went to law school and later worked in compliance at various financial services firms before joining the Treasury group at Amgen. To gain a detailed understanding of financial analysis, I took on the CFA program. Learning guided my path.
Lori Lucas: After building and leading the DC practice at Callan in Chicago, I came to feel that I had completed my mission. I couldn’t resist the opportunity to reinvent the Employee Benefit Research Institute [EBRI], taking it beyond “retirement” to wellness, consumer data, and other themes. I was ready for my next challenge and opportunity.
Kristen Doyle: I traveled through a full evolution of our firm at EnnisKnupp — which was a great place to work with an incredible culture. Then it was acquired by Hewitt and, in turn, rolled up into Aon, a global firm with 50,000 employees. Aon gave me access to new colleagues, global clients, and opportunities to volunteer in our community. Major changes always bring opportunities, even if they don’t always feel like it at first. I have always embraced change.
How have you encouraged mentorship for women and other traditionally underrepresented groups?
Kristen Doyle: Our industry has traditionally been dominated by the white male community. Aon has created a sponsorship initiative in an effort to embrace other groups. Women, in particular, are finding their voice, finding new opportunities, and getting promoted. Great progress is well underway.
Lessons from corporate transitions
Kristen, tell us about leading the integration of Aon’s acquisition of The Townsend Group in 2018.
Kristen Doyle: To me it was a great example of how you can take maximum advantage of a professional opportunity when your employer supports your personal life. In 2016 I had been leading Aon’s public funds group for two years, and I told my boss that I wanted something more. With the acquisition of Townsend, I was asked to lead the integration — a complex, expensive integration.
Some two weeks before I was given this massive assignment, I discovered that I was pregnant with twins! I felt I had an exciting but difficult path — taking on the integration role while at the same time announcing I would have to leave halfway through it. My boss said, “If we can’t make this work for you, shame on us.” My takeaway was we all have major life events that might pull us away from our jobs, such as personal events, disabilities, etcetera. No one should have to pass up an opportunity just because of those things.
Suzanne, tell us about your transition to a new role in Portland, Oregon, at the consulting firm RVK.
Suzanne Carroll: In traditional business, key meetings usually take place in person. But I made this transition during the Covid lockdown. Going through that process in a virtual environment allowed me to see many people in a short period of time and to go back and ask additional questions. Both parties should be open minded about new opportunities. RVK and I had discussed one role, which wasn’t a great fit. But they said, “Let’s keep talking.” My advice is to take any meeting, listen, and understand the needs of potential employers. You never know where it will lead you.
The future of our business
Lori, what do you see in the future for DC innovation?
Lori Lucas: We’ve done a lot to bring new retirement savers into the system, particularly since the passage of the Pension Protection Act [PPA] in 2006. However, these benefits have mostly accrued to larger workplace savings plans; we have a lingering “coverage” issue with smaller companies. Many of my conversations with legislators focus on ways of closing this coverage gap.
We’ve seen a shift away from traditional defined benefit pension plans in the private sector. Today, defined benefit plans are primarily seen in the public sector [i.e., pension plans for state and local workers]. What changes do we see going forward?
Kristen Doyle: We project low expected investment returns for the next 10 years, which will present challenges for the public plan space. Plans have seen increased assets and have lowered their discount rates.
Public plans need high-conviction alpha, including taking greater advantage of illiquidity. Pension plans are increasingly delegating investment implementation decisions to their investment teams, while the Board of Trustees makes the key decisions around policy, asset allocation, and governance.
Kaitlin, at Putnam you are both Head of Global Institutional Management and of the 37 Capital platform. What are your plans going forward?
Kaitlin May: Today, Putnam has strong strategies to sell in fixed income, dedicated mortgage, structured credit, and other strategies. On the equity side, we have large cap value, growth strategies, and emerging markets — offerings that are getting interest from both domestic and offshore investors. We position ourselves as a thought leader in the global market.
Also, these days, it’s “sustainable-sustainable-sustainable.” Katherine Collins, Putnam’s Head of Sustainable Investing, has undertaken deep collaboration with clients, informing them of how we view the world.
We’re rolling out new strategies that we know to be of interest to investors around the world.
My goals turn on transparency, collaboration, and teamwork. We don’t compete within our group. Rather, we succeed together.
Women of Putnam
Women of Putnam is an initiative to support and increase the diverse representation of women at Putnam and enable a culture of inclusion. Together, the group will:
- Engage a diverse group of women to connect, network, learn, and build community, involving men as allies when appropriate
- Develop women at Putnam to achieve their professional goals
- Grow Putnam market leadership by increasing diverse female representation across the firm and establishing Putnam as a leading voice for women in financial services
Putnam Investments is not affiliated with RVK, Callan, Aon Investments, or Employee Benefit Research Institute. No fees were paid by or to these organizations for their participation and participation herein does not serve as a recommendation or endorsement of Putnam products or services by those individuals (or their related firms) participating.
This material is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not designed to be a recommendation of any specific investment product, strategy, or decision, and is not intended to suggest taking or refraining from any course of action. The material was not prepared, and is not intended, to address the needs, circumstances, and objectives of any specific institution, plan, or individual(s). Putnam is not providing advice in a fiduciary capacity under applicable law in providing this material, which should not be viewed as impartial, because it is provided as part of the general marketing and advertising activities of Putnam, which earns fees when clients select its products and services. The views and strategies described herein may not be suitable for all investors. Prior to making any investment or financial decisions, any recipients of this material should seek individualized advice from their personal financial, legal, tax, and other professional advisors that takes into account all of the particular facts and circumstances of their situation. Unless otherwise noted, Putnam is the source of all data. Putnam Investments cannot guarantee the accuracy or completeness of any statements or data contained in the material. Information and data contained in this material are subject to change. Actual results could differ materially from those anticipated. All investments involve risk, and investment recommendations will not always be profitable. Putnam Investments does not guarantee any minimum level of investment performance or the success of any investment strategy. Investing entails risks, including possible loss of principal. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. This material or any portion hereof may not be reprinted, sold, or redistributed in whole or in part without the express written consent of Putnam Investments. The information provided relates to Putnam Investments and its affiliates, which include The Putnam Advisory Company, LLC, Putnam Investment Management, LLC, Putnam Investments Limited® and Putnam Retail Management, LP.
Investing involves risk, including the loss of capital.
Investors should carefully consider the investment objectives, risks, charges, and expenses of a fund before investing. For a prospectus, or a summary prospectus if available, containing this and other information for any Putnam fund or product, call your financial representative or call Putnam at 1-800-225-1581. Please read the prospectus carefully before investing.
Issued in the United Kingdom by Putnam Investments Limited®. Putnam Investments Limited is authorized and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). For the activities carried out in Germany, the German branch of Putnam Investments Limited holds a permit as a financial investment broker in accordance with Sec. 34f para. 1 sentence no. 1 of the German Trade Ordinance and is registered under the registration number D-F-16077N8-19 in the publicly available broker register. Putnam Investments Limited is also permitted to provide cross-border investment services to certain EEA member states. In Europe, this material is directed exclusively at professional clients and eligible counterparties (as defined under the FCA Rules, or the German Securities Trading Act (Wertpapierhandelsgesetz) or other applicable law) who are knowledgeable and experienced in investment matters. Any investments to which this material relates are available only to or will be engaged in only with such persons, and any other persons (including retail clients) should not act or rely on this material. Furthermore, this material is only intended for the recipient receiving it directly from Putnam Investments Limited and should not be forwarded to, or relied upon by, the recipient’s underlying clients.
Prepared for use with wholesale investors in Australia by Putnam Investments Australia Pty Limited, ABN, 50 105 178 916, AFSL No. 247032. This material has been prepared without taking account of an investor’s objectives, financial situation, and needs. Before deciding to invest, investors should consider whether the investment is appropriate for them.
Prepared for use in Canada by Putnam Investments Canada ULC (o/a Putnam Management in Manitoba). Where permitted, advisory services are provided in Canada by Putnam Investments Canada ULC (o/a Putnam Management in Manitoba) and its affiliate,
The Putnam Advisory Company, LLC.
This material is prepared by Putnam Investments for use in Japan by Putnam Investments Japan Co., Ltd. (“Putnam Japan”). Putnam Japan is registered with Kanto Local Finance Bureau in Japan as a financial instruments business operator conducting the investment advisory and agency business, and is a member of Japan Investment Advisors Association. This material is prepared for informational purposes only, and is not intended as a solicitation to invest in any securities or other financial product in Japan, or to enter into with Putnam Japan an investment advisory contract or a discretionary investment management contract.
For informational purposes only. Not an investment recommendation.
This material is provided for limited purposes. It is not intended as an offer or solicitation for the purchase or sale of any financial instrument, or any Putnam product or strategy. References to specific asset classes and financial markets are for illustrative purposes only and are not intended to be, and should not be interpreted as, recommendations or investment advice. The opinions expressed in this article represent the current, good-faith views of the author(s) at the time of publication. The views are provided for informational purposes only and are subject to change. This material does not take into account any investor’s particular investment objectives, strategies, tax status, or investment horizon. Investors should consult a financial advisor for advice suited to their individual financial needs. Putnam Investments cannot guarantee the accuracy or completeness of any statements or data contained in the article. Predictions, opinions, and other information contained in this article are subject to change. Any forward-looking statements speak only as of the date they are made, and Putnam assumes no duty to update them. Forward-looking statements are subject to numerous assumptions, risks, and uncertainties. Actual results could differ materially from those anticipated. Past performance is not a guarantee of future results. As with any investment, there is a potential for profit as well as the possibility of loss.
Diversification does not guarantee a profit or ensure against loss. It is possible to lose money in a diversified portfolio.
Consider these risks before investing: International investing involves certain risks, such as currency fluctuations, economic instability, and political developments. Investments in small and/or midsize companies increase the risk of greater price fluctuations. Bond investments are subject to interest-rate risk, which means the prices of the fund’s bond investments are likely to fall if interest rates rise. Bond investments also are subject to credit risk, which is the risk that the issuer of the bond may default on payment of interest or principal. Interest-rate risk is generally greater for longer-term bonds, and credit risk is generally greater for below-investment-grade bonds, which may be considered speculative. Unlike bonds, funds that invest in bonds have ongoing fees and expenses. Lower-rated bonds may offer higher yields in return for more risk. Funds that invest in government securities are not guaranteed. Mortgage-backed securities are subject to prepayment risk. Commodities involve the risks of changes in market, political, regulatory, and natural conditions. You can lose money by investing in a mutual fund.
Putnam Retail Management.