Women Leaders

Susan H. Martin, WEC Energy Group

Susan H. Martin

An Engaged Workforce

Editors’ Note

Susan Martin was named to her current post in June 2015. Martin previously held the same positions for Wisconsin Energy Corp. and We Energies since March 2012. She also is Corporate Secretary to the boards of directors and manages all governance matters. She joined We Energies in March 2000 as an attorney in Legal Services and was appointed law director – We Generation in June 2006. In December 2007, she was appointed Vice President, Corporate Secretary, and Associate General Counsel of Wisconsin Energy Corp. and We Energies. Prior to joining We Energies, she was associated with the law firm of Foley & Lardner LLP for six years. She earned her bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees in English and literature from the University of Michigan, and a juris doctor degree cum laude from the University of Wisconsin. Martin currently serves on the boards of the Milwaukee Public Museum, the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, and the United Community Center.

Company Brief

WEC Energy Group, based in Milwaukee, is one of the nation’s premier energy companies, serving 4.4 million customers in Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan, and Minnesota. The company’s principal utilities are We Energies, Wisconsin Public Service, Peoples Gas, North Shore Gas, Michigan Gas Utilities, and Minnesota Energy Resources. The company’s other major subsidiary, We Power, designs, builds, and owns electric generating plants. WEC Energy Group (wecenergygroup.com), a component of the S&P 500, has nearly $29 billion of assets, 8,500 employees, and approximately 55,000 stockholders of record.

Would you discuss your role at WEC Energy Group and your key areas of focus?

My role focuses on two distinct but intertwined worlds: legal affairs and corporate governance affairs. As general counsel of a large public company, with several separately regulated public utility subsidiaries, I lead the legal team and direct all legal strategy; counsel the CEO and other executive management and advise the board of directors; and serve as a strategic thinker and advisor who understands the business and its risks and challenges. As the corporate secretary, I lead the corporate affairs team in its support of the governance responsibilities of the board of directors of our parent company as well as the boards of our operating subsidiaries; advise on emerging governance issues; and oversee our relations with shareholders.

Has the role of General Counsel evolved and how critical is it for the role to be actively engaged in business strategy?

Today, it is pretty typical to have the roles of General Counsel and Corporate Secretary combined, and this makes sense. Even though the focus of each role or function is somewhat different, they have common features. Each role is driven by a dedication to compliance with laws, regulations, policies, and rules. Each role considers how to best manage risks to the organization’s good standing with regulators, with shareholders, with customers, and with employees.

Has increased regulation caused a more complex environment from a legal standpoint?

Let’s say there is never a dull moment. In many areas – financial regulation of public companies, or regulation of utility markets, or the environmental challenges to generate or deliver energy, or the data security or privacy concerns of customers, employees, or vendors – the pace continues to escalate, and the complexity keeps growing.

How do you define good governance?

We are committed to conducting business with a high level of integrity, a business value that is the foundation of all of our decisions and actions. We are acutely aware of our responsibility to have the appropriate governance structure and management systems in place for anticipating, planning, and managing corporate initiatives. We believe that effective corporate governance is an essential driver of stockholder value and a key component of sustainability at successful companies.

Have you been happy with your ability to attract and retain talent within the legal function at WEC Energy Group and would you highlight the strength of your team?

The opportunity to work as a lawyer in an industry that is as complex as the utility industry attracts people who seek intellectually challenging legal work. Working in-house provides a collegial engagement with non-lawyers – business leaders, engineers, accountants, environmental scientists, power plant operators, field workers. The sense of urgency and engagement with the business is what keeps talent here. Our legal team is small, but deeply experienced – both in substantive legal expertise and in business acumen. We are dedicated to supporting the company’s key initiatives while managing its legal risks and embodying our ethical corporate culture.