Anna Watch of BT, head of executive share plans
In what ways does employee share ownership serve a useful purpose?
I think one of the primary purposes employee share ownership serves is employee engagement. Through share ownership employees become far more interested and engaged in the success of the company, helping them to strive to help support that success.
It also helps employees engage with one another and therefore has a positive impact on the workforce.
How can we widen and deepen the adoption and use of employee share ownership?
Continued use of the suite of the HMRC approved share plans but also executive plans. Both types of plans help widen the knowledge and understanding of share plans and also improve employee engagement.
What would you tell someone on the fence about introducing employee share ownership to their company?
In short, it’s a no brainer! Whilst there are costs associated with introducing plans, the returns both for employees and the company in terms of engagement are potentially boundless.
What do you think will change about employee share ownership over the next five years?
I think the pressure from companies to make continued improvements to the plans will continue. We’ve seen an increase in the limits but also more recently the changes to taking a break under Sharesave.
Whilst we’ll continue to see engagement, I do wonder if this will plateau and if we’ll start to see companies reviewing what they offer both for cost and engagement reasons.
What has been the most important development in employee share ownership during your career?
Changes to the Sharesave limits. Whilst a lot of work had gone on in the background, I think that change caught everyone by surprise.
In addition, I think the debate around executive pay including share incentives has really developed over the last 20 years. It’ll never go away but I think it’s much more transparent now than it ever was.
Which change to employee share plans legislation, in the UK or elsewhere, would you most like to see?
I think we’ve seen one of the biggest changes with the Sharesave limits increase. In terms of overseas, I think we could make it easier for employees to deal in their shares.
Why do you think employee share ownership has enjoyed cross-party support in the UK?
I think the importance of employee share ownership has developed so much over the last 20 years and companies recognise this and don’t want to fall behind the curve. I think there’s still a way to go particularly on participation rates, but great progress has already been made.
Which aspect of the Esop Centre do you most value?
The sharing of information across companies which is invaluable.
Which aspect of the Esop Centre would you most like to change?
More members leading to increased voice/support.