Lincoln Investment, a majority family-owned financial advisory and investment firm, serves more than 364,000 clients representing over $36 billion in assets. Managing those assets and accounts are over 1,100 financial advisors spread out across the country. And behind those advisors is a nimble team of just 450 home office staff supporting advisors with everything from troubleshooting technology issues to providing guidance on client accounts.
To maintain a high level of customer service, one of the firm’s biggest goals is to grow the company while keeping its advisor-to-employee ratios low. After all, with so many advisors using the firm’s financial systems and technologies to support customers every day, it’s important to remember that advisors are clients too. The faster they get answers to their questions, the faster they can help customers—all of which helps Lincoln Investment scale.
“Slack has allowed this 50-year-old firm to maintain its independence and put the company on a path of growth from 800 advisors to over 1,100 advisors in a period of five years,” says Guru Rao, Lincoln Investment’s vice president of technology.
With the help of Slack channels—areas in Slack where groups of people can connect and collaborate—and several integrations with other software like Google Docs, Zendesk, and Jira, staff members can now stay on the pulse of what’s happening across the business and lend faster one-on-one support to advisors. Already, a 90-minute weekly meeting gathering technical teams has been replaced by much more efficient thrice-weekly 15-minute scrums that take place in a Slack channel.
Slack channels = more communication, better collaboration, and fewer meetings
“We have two home offices, so Slack is an easy way for us to collaborate across all of our locations,” says Tiffany Hiett, Lincoln Investment’s director of branch development.
Prior to using Slack, teams relied mainly on a mix of emails, phone calls, and meetings to keep everyone on the same page. Now that team members can join dedicated project and discussion channels in Slack, people can stay focused on the projects and initiatives that affect their work most.
Another benefit to using channels is that everyone can communicate more frequently between meetings, which, as it happens, helps the team reduce their overall volume of time-intensive meetings.
Already, a 90-minute weekly meeting gathering technical teams has been replaced by much more efficient thrice-weekly 15-minute scrums that take place in a Slack channel.
The leadership team uses the
#home-office-leadership channel to post meeting agendas and follow-ups so that everyone stays accountable for their assigned tasks and next steps. People can use the channel to post relevant updates and keep everyone else informed of their progress or roadblocks they’ve encountered.
Another way Slack is saving the team ample time and focus? Easy file-sharing and communications in real time.
“When I’m out in the field, need a file quickly, and can’t access the company’s VPN [virtual private network] from my computer, I can still get an Excel spreadsheet through Slack,” Hiett says. That flexibility saves advisors precious time with clients. It used to take up to four minutes to connect to the firm’s VPN and access files. In Slack, it takes about 20 seconds.
Robin Fite, the company’s director of technology and product management, adds, “Advisors appreciate that we respond quickly, and they know we are here to support them.”
A hub for experts (and their tools) companywide
Advisors don’t benefit just from the support of team members in the home office. In the
#advisor-link channel, Lincoln Investment advisors across the country are able to form their own community, where they can trade tips and share feedback directly with the head office staff.
For members of technical teams, Slack channels provide a single, convenient place for team members to come together around important data that reports on the health of their systems. Engineers hooked the Slack API up to their custom web application so they could receive notifications in Slack when something malfunctions. With all responsible parties and notifications in one channel, team members can rally around issues quickly and implement fixes faster.
Considering how many advisors rely on these technical products when giving clients sound financial advice, making sure all systems are operating can be a make-or-break situation for the business.
“We’re a financial services company first, but 100% of our revenue comes in through our technology infrastructure,” says Rao. “Slack provides us with a scalable infrastructure to support that growth.”
To make Slack even more functional for the whole team, Rao decided to add integrations with other software services that they regularly use, including Google Docs, Jira, Trello, and Zendesk.
And then there’s the company’s
#generalchannel, which is used for things like traffic updates and parking lot closures for employees commuting to the office, or a snippet of one’s personal life, like a child’s drawing from school. “Our general channel really runs the gamut,” Hiett says.
Slack calls to the rescue
Slack also recently served as a novel solution to a seemingly unrelated tech problem. When the home office had an ongoing issue with its phone system, employees in that office simply relied on Slack to call team members.
As a majority family-owned financial services firm, Lincoln Investment intends to remain fiercely independent. But, Rao notes, “we have to grow organically to stay independent.” With Slack, they’re able to do just that.