12 Human Resource Executive®
BY MARK McGRAW
The financial services industry was a tumultuous place to be when Lisa Buckingham joined
Lincoln Financial Group in December
The financial meltdown that would
eventually upend the U.S. economy
for the next several years was still
gathering momentum. Like so many
others in the industry, Lincoln was
dealing with the fallout and bracing for
more turbulence to come.
“We were entering into TARP. We
were reducing the workforce,” says
Buckingham, the Radnor, Pa.-based
insurance and investment management
provider’s executive vice president,
and chief human resources, brand and
enterprise communications officer.
“It was right at the beginning of the
As such, there was a high
probability things would get even
worse. So, when Lincoln Financial
Group President and CEO Dennis
Glass offered Buckingham the
organization’s top HR post,
Buckingham’s father, for one,
questioned why she should take it.
“He said, ‘Don’t you think it’s risky
to go into financial services?’ ” recalls
Buckingham, who came to Lincoln
from Thomson Reuters, where she
was a senior HR executive and on
the short list to one day succeed the
Executive®’s 2017 HR Executive of the
Year—clearly didn’t share her father’s
reticence about her next move.
“I said, ‘Dad, it’s the No. 1 job, and
I’m managing my career. So this makes
sense as my next step. And, what Lincoln
does, from the standpoint of protecting
financial futures, was something I
thought I could really sign up for.’ ”
Indeed, by the time Buckingham
completed the four-month-long
interview process and had gotten to
know Glass and the Lincoln HR team,
she felt her confidence was well-placed.
“When I met Dennis, and then the
leadership team and many HR folks as
well, I knew I wanted the job,” she says.
In her one-on-one conversations
with Glass, “he really talked a lot about
wanting to retain our best people
and investing in the company’s talent
strategy during this tough time,” says
Buckingham. “He wanted to make
clear to me that there was a light at the
Buckingham’s first step, however,
would be building and getting to know
her own HR team.
At the time, “we were divesting
businesses and focusing on the
strengths of our organization,” says
Buckingham. “So we did the same
thing for HR.
“I made sure I evaluated my direct
team, and when I had departures—
this happens; some followed leaders
to other places—I stood up, learned
their roles and operated in them until I
found the right talent,” she continues.
“Some of those roles were open for a
year. It was hard work, but having an
open mind, being humble and asking
questions truly helped my success” in
eventually filling those positions.
In the nearly nine years since,
Buckingham and the HR team she
leads have turned their attention to a
wide variety of HR-related programs
and initiatives. Her leadership has
helped Lincoln advance its diversity
and inclusion efforts, improve talent
management and succession-planning
processes, and develop a fully
revamped career framework.
These sorts of accomplishments
have earned her high praise from
her CEO, who says Buckingham
has “brought exceptional results
to Lincoln,” and has done so with
“warmth, caring and heart, all of which
have made Lincoln a better place to
Fairly or not, financial services has
never been perceived as an especially
cutting-edge industry. Upon her
arrival at Lincoln, Buckingham wanted
to change that, and began offering
an experience to the company’s
customers—internal and external—
that was similar to “born digital”
companies such as Amazon and Uber.
To make that happen, Buckingham
drew on her experience as an
HR leader at Thomson Reuters.
(Buckingham’s roles at the mass
media and information organization
included chief talent officer, head of
HR and organizational development for
Thomson Learning, and head of global
talent for combined Thomson Reuters
Lisa Buckingham, our 2017 HR Executive of
the Year, is leading Lincoln Financial Group
into a new era by making it a more diverse
and more digitally oriented organization.