Giving back to the communities where we live and work is part of who Securian Financial is as a company. Our employees, retirees and board members are at the heart of our culture of giving, and they are empowered to support causes they care about.
Suzette Huovinen, President, CEO and Chair of Securian Asset Management at Securian Financial, has made volunteering a personal priority as she volunteers with Minnesota Children’s Museum (MCM) as a board member.
We recently had a conversation with Suzette, where she brought to life the significant ways she and Securian Financial have been involved in our community.
Can you tell us about the Minnesota Children’s Museum?
Minnesota Children’s Museum is one of the largest children’s museums in the United States. Dedicated to sparking children’s learning through play, the museum features kid-powered play spaces where families have fun together and children take the lead. Through interactive exhibits and programs, the museum provides open-ended, self-directed experiences that give kids (and adults!) the space and freedom to explore their interests, solve problems and build life skills like confidence, critical and creative thinking, communication and more.
The museum is in downtown St. Paul and features ten permanent exhibits, including a laser maze sponsored by Securian Financial. There’s also a traveling exhibit gallery featuring a new experience every few months. Interesting fact: the Minnesota Children’s Museum is a leading producer of these rental exhibits for children’s museums and discovery centers.
What led you to get involved with the Minnesota Children’s Museum?
Securian Financial has long had a member on the museum’s Board. When Kristi Fox’s tenure was up, I was approached to take on the position. This was a perfect fit for me, as at the time, I had a 3-year-old, and the MCM was already a huge part of our lives. It also fit my desire to get more involved in the St. Paul area and my passion for the arts.
What do you find appealing about what they do in our community?
MCM is a leader in helping children succeed, and I’ve always been passionate about the development of children to have a thriving workforce in the future. I’m also passionate about the DE&I initiatives that MCM has as a focus, including their access programs. That led me to advocate for Securian Financial’s Free First Sundays at the museum. Every child deserves a chance to play more, and the programs at MCM are great ways for that to happen! Since the launch of the Securian First Free Sundays in March 2022, MCM has welcomed nearly 45,000 visitors through the program.
As a board member, what are your responsibilities?
Strategy, oversight and governance, and museum support are the board's key responsibilities.
We spend significant time talking about the museum's sustainability, our ability to serve more children in different ways, and our ability to have a thriving financial position. At times, this has meant advocating with donors, government officials, or within Securian for funding.
Board members also provide technical expertise to the Committees we serve on. That has meant tapping into my finance and risk management skill set to help both the Finance and Executive committees.
How did you know that board membership was the right step for you?
When I first joined a board (MCM is my second), I wanted to expand my leadership skill set and play more of a governance role than a ‘do-er’ role. This was a great way for me to develop those skills. It was also an important way for me to build a network and connections within the Twin Cities in a different way.
What personal or professional skill sets are you using or further developing while serving as a board member? Did you gain any unexpected skills?
I have leveraged a number of skill sets in my time. As a member and chair of the finance committee, my financial acumen was important, and I further developed my skills around understanding cashflows and endowments in this role.
An unexpected skill I’ve had to develop further is helping a large group make connections and work together as a team. In my time as Chair of the Board, we had to focus on making connections virtually during the pandemic, and that meant creating opportunities for our large group of Directors to connect in different ways. This relationship building is so important within a Board to create a well-running team, which is something I’m focused on every day in my Securian roles, as well.
Finally, I’ve really leveraged my Board service to focus on my Diversity, Equity & Inclusion skill set. I had the opportunity to be part of a couple of different cohorts to explore the topics and make progress on my journey to being a more inclusive leader.
Aside from the Minnesota Children’s Museum, are you involved with other organizations?
I am a Steering Committee member for the GroundBreak Coalition, which focuses on developing black wealth in the Twin Cities after George Floyd’s murder. I also volunteer periodically at Circus Juventas during performances and at my son’s school, the Friends School of MN.
What advice do you have for others who are interested in getting active with a nonprofit organization? What are important things to keep in mind?
I always encourage people to ensure that the organization's mission aligns with their passion. It will make your volunteer time doubly rewarding! It’s also really important to understand upfront the commitment required — in dollars and in time. I’ve been on different types of boards. Working boards are very different from oversight boards and understanding that up front is key. It’s also important to know where one can leverage existing skills but build new ones, creating a win-win for both them and the organization.