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In a celebratory mood: Lincoln Financial Group at age 110

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The average life expectancy of a Fortune 500 company today is, by some estimates, between 40 and 50 years. So it’s no small feat for a large corporation to survive for a century.

Still more impressive is reaching age 110. One company that has is Lincoln Financial Group, which on July 20 celebrated the anniversary in fine style: sending its senior management team to the New York Stock Exchange for the ringing of the opening bell.

To gain a historical perspective on the event and the company’s key priorities today, LifeHealthPro Senior Editor Warren Hersch interviewed Lisa Buckingham, LFG’s executive vice president and chief human resources officer, who had joined other members of LFG’s senior management team on the floor of the exchange. The following are excerpts.

Hersch: How did the meeting at the New York Stock Exchange go? 

Buckingham (shown at right): It was such an honor to be there. We met the traders and others who work on the trading floor. Considering also how important the NYSE is in the larger scheme of things and the speed of electronic trading today, the overall effect was very powerful.  

It was great to have our team there, in part to learn how the exchange has changed over the years. Just three years before we began trading there in 1969, the first woman, Muriel Sieber, joined the ranks of NYSE members. And, interestingly, it was only a few years ago that the NYSE installed a women’s restroom on the Board Room floor of the exchange.  

There’s been much progress in the evolution of the workplace. We need to continue to celebrate this evolution, especially in financial services. 

Hersch: Turning to Lincoln Financial Group, how has the company changed since its establishment in 1905? 

Buckingham: The organization was built on this twin commitment: to help Americans realize their financial goals; and to serve as an honest and dependable company. That legacy remains the guiding vision for Lincoln Financial and its 9,500-plus employees today.

The company grew over time, in part through acquisitions. Among the more significant of these is our 2006 merger with Jefferson Pilot, which was game-changing for us because of Jefferson Pilot’s very strong insurance organization. We continue to build on the competencies of that acquisition. 

See a timeline of Lincoln Financial Group’s 110-year history here.

Hersch: Among the challenges Lincoln Financial has encountered over the past 110 years, I imagine the Great Recession of 2007-2009 was among the more significant. How did the company respond to the downturn and what role did you play? 

Buckingham: Our overriding focus throughout the credit crisis was doing our best for our policyholders. To that end, we participated in the federal government’s Troubled Asset Relief Program or TARP for 11 months, making certain throughout the process that we followed all regulatory guidelines. And we communicated to shareholders and policyholders that we were doing everything we could to protect their assets.  

Secondly, we made a strategic decision in 2009 to go back to our core focus: selling life insurance, annuities, group protection and retirement plan services. As part of this transition, we sold Delaware Investments, a U.S.-based asset management firm, to Australia’s Macquarie Group.  

When I arrived at Lincoln Financial in December of 2008, I engaged with company CEO Dennis Glass and other high-level executives to devise a strategy to invest in talent development; prior to that time, we were being cautious about what and where we were investing. 

Underpinning this strategy was the goal of creating a consumer brand that resonated in the marketplace, and with our policyholders. My role also includes leading Lincoln Financial’s brand and enterprise communications function, and I was charged with leading this effort.     

Hersch: As part of your talent strategy, has there been an enhanced emphasis on recruiting women in the home offices or advisors the field? 

Buckingham: Yes. In 2009, I hired Allison Green as senior vice president, head of diversity and inclusion to spearhead our strategic focus on D&I. Allison is is charged with ensuring that we’re targeting the right candidate pools for various positions and provides leadership along with our Diversity Council.  Allison also leads our Business Resource Groups, which are our employee voice within D&I.     

 

As an example of our D&I focus, we launched in 2010 a generational differences training program that brought together boomers, Gen Xers and millennials. A key aim was to educate the participants about their similarities and differences. This enterprise-wide program was both fun and successful.  

The focus on D&I extends to Lincoln Financial Network, a retail distribution organization comprising more than 8,500 financial service professionals. Last February, LFN appointed Nicole Spinelli as director of The WISE Group — Women Inspiring, Supporting, and Educating — a new enterprise-wide initiative designed to better support the needs of female financial advisors and clients. Spinelli’s appointment follows by several weeks the group’s inaugural meeting, which brought together nearly 100 female advisors across LFN.  

We’re really proud to say that D&I is a very important part of our business today. 

Also, in 2013, we launched “Lincoln’s Legacy,” a three-year initiative designed to educate children and adults on the legacy of President Abraham Lincoln, as well as the continuing importance of freedom, opportunity and equality to America’s future. This initiative includes events and exhibits, a collection of oral histories, and the establishment of the Linocln’s Legacy Award.  This special initiative marks the 150th anniversary of the issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation, and culminates in 2015 with the 150th anniversary of the adoption of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution. 

Our interest in Lincoln’s legacy goes back many decades. In 1928, we launched the Lincoln Museum to house the many artifacts the Lincoln organization had collected since our founding in 1905. We no longer own the museum; in 2009, we donated all of the artifacts to Indiana, which established its own museum, the Lincoln Historical Research Foundation. It’s an amazing place and steeped in history.  

Hersch: How might the company continue to evolve while remaining true to its legacy and traditions? 

Buckingham: We have a strong focus on technology innovation to enhance service and support capabilities. This is very important to us, and so we’ve invested heavily in this area. We’re highly committed to delivering the best client experience, both through our affiliated/producer network and our formal product lines and services. 

We additionally have a strong focus on a centralized distribution — a competitive differentiator in our business. We also pride ourselves on developing leadership expectations and competencies for the organization. That sets the tone of what we’re doing and how we’re measuring learning and development, recruiting, promotions, and rewards. 

We believe that optimism and empowerment will continue to be a platform we use to reach consumers, clients and the affiliates who work with us. We strive on a daily basis to keep raising the level of experience through interactions with employees, clients, advisors and our business partners.  

Hersch: How have LFG’s shareholders benefited — or not — from the NYSE’s stock market swings over the last century? 

Buckingham: Since we exited TARP, our stock has appreciated over 90 percent. We’ve delivered a very strong performance for shareholders.  

That performance is factored into how we compensate our NEOs or named executive officers. When deciding pay, the compensation committee — which I lead — looks at measures like return on equity, total shareholder return and the company’s financial performance relative its peer group. 

This market-based data also helps guide Lincoln Financial’s actions in other spheres to ensure we’re doing all the right things — for our employees, customers, producers and other stakeholders. For my part, it’s been an honor and a pleasure to be the person to lead that effort through both good and tough times. 

See also:

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Women in insurance cite progress in achieving gender equality

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