LGM Financial Services Inc.
How does an industry-leading financial services firm manage to sustain 20-30% top-line growth year after year in a competitive market? By creating a business model that focuses on engaging employees and preparing them for the future by delivering integrated services to a specialized clientele.
By: Isabel Rut
*As seen in the May/June 2016 digital edition of Your Workplace
Dedicated to the automotive sector, LGM Financial Services is a leading provider of B2B finance and insurance products. They equip their customers with valuable warranty, credit loan protection, certified pre-owned and other insurance products while aiding their automotive business partners to maximize their sales performance and profitability.
By offering private-label warranty and insurance products directly to car dealerships that represent automakers that have endorsed LGM’s offerings, they are able to customize their services to fully represent their clients. A customer who has acquired a vehicle from a participating dealer, for example, will be purchasing a fully branded extended warranty, that is, in fact, a product provided by LGM.
LGM employees represent the brand throughout a claim, so the consumer can interact with the automaker, rather than a third-party insurance company. Through meticulous training, strict adherence to service and strong claims experience, LGM provides a real advantage to the dealerships they represent. They are partnered with leading brands such as Hyundai, Audi, Volkswagen, Kia, Mazda, Mitsubishi and BMW.
Originating in Vancouver, BC, in 1998 with four employees, the co-founder and current sole owner and CEO of LGM, Adam Hill, is the chief visionary behind the company. With a foundation in accounting and insurance, Hill has guided the company’s rapid growth and now employs more than 200 specialized staff in three locations across Canada (Vancouver, Oakville and Montreal). Tripling his team in the last eight years, he is expecting to double it again within the next five to 10 years.
Building the foundation
While there is no single way to create a great workplace, the best companies have managed to create a culture where employees trust the people they work for, enjoy the people they work with and have pride in what they do.
And there is passion behind LGM’s people and pride for the programs developed to engage employees to thrive in a high-growth corporate culture that is constantly innovating. “We are a small-mid-sized firm that thinks big and as such, we offer our employees programs that meet and exceed others much larger than us,” says Jim Steffler, Executive Vice-President, People.
As a member of the senior leadership team, HR strategy is seen as an integral part of the business plan. “At LGM, people data is just as important as the financial data and receives equal attention,” he says.
Adhering to the belief that the best leaders get in front of growth, leaders at all levels are required to fulfill eight leadership competencies as part of the leadership development program. These competencies (listed below) are linked to the company core values and are developed with real-life situations in group problem-solving exercises:
Eight Competencies of Leaders
- SELF-MANAGEMENT: Leads with emotional control, agility and influence through expressing a wide spectrum of emotions to suit the environment he or she is within in order to build commitment.
- RESULTS-FOCUSED: Creates a high-performance culture throughout the organization with embedded urgency and accountability to achieve results, while preserving core values and enthusiasm from the employees.
- EFFECTIVE COMMUNICATOR: Expresses and transmits meaningful information with consistency and clarity, and uses active listening techniques in order to promote increased understanding.
- EMPOWERS AND COACHES OTHERS: Applies standard coaching methodology that helps individuals self-identify their opportunities for change, make decisions within their scope of authority, and pursue a plan of action to achieve business results.
- COLLABORATION AND INFLUENCE: Fosters a high-performing culture where leaders work well together toward a common vision. In addition, positively and respectfully challenging each other to do their best work across the business and building effective relationships, both internally and externally.
- BUILD TEAMS: Facilitates the right teams, with the right skills, and work cooperatively and effectively toward a common goal.
- INNOVATION AND CHANGE LEADERSHIP: Commits to new approaches ahead of emerging opportunities and successfully removes obstacles to ensure the organization remains nimble and responsive to change.
- STRATEGIC ORIENTATION: Anticipates and plans for future events and opportunities, including competitive realities to create clarity in direction for how the vision is to be achieved.
Seven Key Competencies of Non-Management Employees:
- COMMUNICATION: Ability to clearly and articulately present information in both spoken and written word.
- COLLABORATION: Develops positive relationships with others in order to build consensus, morale and commitment to goals and objectives.
- INNOVATION: Displays the ability to think outside of the box in order to develop creative and new solutions that meet current and future needs.
- FLEXIBILITY: Easily adapts to changing environment and resources.
- PRODUCTIVITY: Strives to consistently achieve excellence in all tasks and goals.
- ACCOUNTABILITY: Takes personal ownership and responsibility for the quality and timeliness of work commitments and decisions.
Four drivers to engagement
There are many aspects to creating a great place to work. A solid foundation is a great start, but building programs to engage and nurture this foundation really sets LGM apart. “The employee experience goes to the core of our business success,” says Steffler.
Despite an already highly engaged workforce, LGM focuses on four key areas – two are “sustain” drivers (what they already do very well) and two are “improvement” drivers (where procedures, processes or technology need to be improved).
- LEARNING & DEVELOPMENT
LGM encourages personal and professional development by offering tuition fee payment in advance to remove barriers to development. The goal is to link learning to performance and prepare employees for the future.
LGM invites managers and peers to regularly recognize employees who demonstrate the core values and honours the winners during an annual employee event.
- CAREER OPPORTUNITIES
Developing employees by providing them with the opportunity to advance or repurpose themselves internally is accomplished through stretch assignments, coaching and mentoring. LGM fulfills 60% of their open positions internally by promoting or repurposing their employees to best match their skills and ambitions.
- ENABLING WORK
By enabling employees to feel productive, they are equipped to fully support the vision to revolutionize the consumer ownership experience. This includes:
- Clear processes and procedures for how to work and achieve the goals of an organization
- Tools, resources and processes to maximize productivity
- Organizational structure that enables the achievement of goals
- Tools, technology and information needed to enable work
Health and Wellness
LGM abides by the health and wellness principle – when employees are happy and healthy they are more engaged, present and willing to “give it their all” in serving their clients. Last year’s absentee rate was a meager 2.5 days on average per full-time employee.
Steffler defines the four cornerstones of their wellness strategy as Physical Activity, Healthy Eating, Healthy Minds and Work-Life Balance.
The company provides a $500/year wellness credit to be applied to any gym, wearable device or service that contributes to an employee’s health and wellness. LGM maintains a wellness portal that features healthy recipes, provides healthy snacks and meals during meetings, and issues a quarterly Wellness Matters newsletter.
Recently, LGM launched a Fitbit Challenge, where the first team to virtually travel between the Montreal and Vancouver locations by foot (walking 6,000,000 steps) would win a Lululemon gift card and a donation to the charity of their choosing.
Employees flocked to this challenge with a 90% participation rate. In addition to the obvious health benefit, some employees changed their habits such as smoking cessation and began eating better during the challenge. Others lost a few excess pounds.
To ensure a healthy work-life balance and maintain healthy minds, LGM empowers employees to set their boundaries and make good choices when managing work-life conflicts, including options like flex-schedules and working remotely.
Giving back to the community
Every employee is offered four paid days to volunteer at local, national and international organizations and causes of their choice. These days can be taken in any increments, from an hour to all four days at once. In fact, some employees have gone overseas to assist underdeveloped communities with their volunteer days.
Employees are encouraged to participate and are offered assistance to choose a community organization that would be meaningful to him or her.
The result? In 2015, LGM employees donated 3,465 hours of volunteer time.
Developing an organization that does so much for its clients, its client’s clients and its employees is likely to attract some pretty important attention. In fact, this mid-sized company has garnered a fair share of attention with respect to their best practices, their employee engagement and their outstanding growth.
In 2015, for the eighth consecutive year, LGM achieved placement on the Great Place to Work Institute Canada’s list of 100 best workplaces in Canada.
LGM was recognized as a 2016 Platinum Level Best Small and Medium Employer by AON Hewitt. This award acknowledges excellence in employee engagement and performance across more than 20 HR factors that drive engagement.
LGM was also selected as one of Canada’s Fastest-Growing companies for the seventh consecutive year in 2015 by PROFIT magazine in the 27th annual ranking.
“You hire great people, you get great results. You hire great people that enjoy helping each other; you soar leaps and bounds,” says Steffler.
Past Assistant Editor of Your Workplace, Isabel Rut is a freelance business writer living in Montreal, Quebec.