Man Group first opened its doors to clients back in 1783 and today it’s a global active investment management business listed on the London Stock Exchange. Yet despite the firm’s centuries-old legacy and vast scale, it continues to respond with agility to the changing world of work.
In this exclusive Q&A, Man Group’s chief technology officer responsible for core technology, Tom Price, speaks with Slack’s head of UK Stuart Templeton.
They discuss how Man Group has boosted security, empowered teams with automation, and built a stronger culture by going wall-to-wall with Slack as its digital headquarters (HQ).
Templeton: You rapidly moved to Slack in the early days of the pandemic, and I’m interested in hearing about that process. First though, can you tell us a little more about your role, and how you collaborated before that shift to Slack?
Price: My role consists of overseeing three functions: End User Technology; Core Infrastructure; and Corporate Technology, who manage enterprise tools.
As part of my role, I’m tasked with building and maintaining what Slack would recognise as the company’s ‘digital headquarters (HQ)’, the virtual space in which we collaborate and keep all members of the global team united.
However, before moving to Slack we lacked a cohesive digital HQ. In our tech team, developers had moved to Slack in 2019, but the majority of Man Group’s workforce continued using Lync and Skype for Business. Being fragmented across different messaging tools, only makes collaboration harder. We also found some of the tools offered a poor mobile experience while others lacked the features we needed.
This was manageable, though not ideal, in the pre-pandemic era. However, after the pandemic hit we knew it was unsustainable. We needed a platform that would support all the elements of collaborative daily teamwork in a remote setting. We needed a way to make decisions quickly, respond to challenges, and unite as a team in a shared, transparent, digital headquarters.
That’s why we quickly made the call to go all-in on Slack, and we shifted the entire workforce to it in less than two weeks.
Templeton: The speed of that transition is phenomenal. You’ve got a big workforce spread across offices all over the world, how did you go about moving those teams to Slack in that condensed time frame?
Price: Things were changing fast, and we had to keep pace. We knew we had to prepare quickly for everyone to shift to remote work.
Like I mentioned, only one third of our workforce—the developers and engineers—already had familiarity with Slack. For the rest, this was a brand-new tool. We split them up and organised eight Slack training sessions. Every employee in the business joined one of those across four days.
Originally the sessions were supposed to take place in person, but we moved them online. They served as a crash course covering Slack essentials. We showed people how they could use channels as these digital spaces to share messages and files, collaborate, and communicate.
Our leaders walked teams through how they could use different channels to speak with different teams, like traders, business operations departments, finance specialists, and more.
It was a rapid introduction but the ease of use of Slack meant we were confident people only needed the basics and could then learn as they used it. We also had support channels setup for people to ask questions, too.
Securing the digital headquarters
Templeton: Beyond the high-level need for a tool that provided a digital headquarters and enabled teams to collaborate remotely, as a tech leader in the finance sector, why did Slack particularly appeal to you as a solution?
Price: Slack appealed as a layer of technology that could integrate with the rest of our technology stack. For example, we use WebEx for calls, and Slack plugs directly into that as well as other third-party apps. Beyond those off-the-shelf integrations, the team also has the flexibility to build its own custom apps to address bespoke needs, all within Slack.
That customisation can be taken a step further with the Workflow Builder, which we’ve been using to automate processes like IT requests or routine tasks such as onboarding new members of the team. Streamlining our work in all these different ways really adds up across the team. It results in time saved and a better experience because people can focus on the work that matters.
As a regulated financial services provider, data protection and security are also paramount. Slack’s Enterprise Grid is designed for large, complex organisations like ours and supports those needs. It’s provided our IT admins with autonomy on how they manage elements like security, compliance, data protection, and more.
I’d add that, Slack’s Mobile Device Management has been important for us. We need Man Group data to only be accessed from approved devices and Slack’s Enterprise Mobility Management enables us to control that. We can build that essential security perimeter around customer and personal data.
Breaking down barriers to communication
Templeton: On a day-to-day level, how has using Slack transformed how your teams communicate?
Price: Slack is less siloed and more informal than email and that’s meant it’s helped break down barriers that often form between teams. We now have channels like our #general channel, which empowers everyone, across departments, with direct access to leadership.
That access helps forge a stronger culture. For example, some employees were discussing if they could take time off to support the National Health Service (NHS) during the pandemic—the CEO saw the conversation and immediately said yes. We also saw people sharing light-hearted, inspiring updates about the challenges of working from home. Everyone could come together in a way that wouldn’t have been possible with legacy tools.
We also have announcement channels to share big updates from the senior management and support channels for questions. Often, we’ll see people from across the business chime in to help with support so there’s a new element of collective problem solving in the day-to-day of the business.
Overall, it’s transformed our work by bringing us closer together, even as hybrid work has meant we’re physically more dispersed than ever.
Templeton: To finish up, for other tech leaders, what advice would you give them when overhauling their approach to collaboration?
Price: As far as large multinational financial companies go, I think we’re up there with the most complex! Yet we were able to move to Slack, wall-to-wall, in a matter of weeks, even under particularly challenging circumstances.
So, my advice would be to not accept trade-offs and to embrace the digital HQ.
It might seem like an intimidating prospect but moving beyond legacy tools like email is transformational. You’ll break down silos, unite your team, and boost your security. Employee and customer experience will benefit from that increased agility, and you’ll have a stronger culture as a result.
Whether you’re a leader at a centuries-old financial institution or a fintech startup you can unlock those benefits – and it’ll be simpler than you think.