Gavin Oldham is chairman of Share plc and The Share Centre.
In what ways does employee share ownership serve a useful purpose?
It builds a sense of participation and partnership within a business, encouraging alignment between employees, management and external shareowners. Since responsibility and ownership are closely linked, it also leads to a more mature, business-focused society less prone to damaging swings in political sentiment, and it enables a positive and more egalitarian attitude to economic growth.
How can we widen and deepen the adoption and use of employee share ownership?
By letting employees take the initiative in setting up self-started Share Incentive Plans in the companies for whom they work, thus no longer dependent on company boards taking the initiative. This would kick-start plans in a wide range of listed companies where they are not currently in use.
Also, by publicising the very attractive features of SIPs for employees generally.
What would you tell someone on the fence about introducing employee share ownership to their company?
That they would be denying their employees a valuable saving/investment facility by not introducing the plan, whereby the employee can receive both upfront and ongoing tax relief and supplement their pension on a diversified basis within 3/5 years in addition to their closer relationship with the company.
That they are missing a big opportunity to align their employees more closely with the business, thereby increasing its productivity.
What do you think will change about employee share ownership over the next five years?
It needs more political commitment, and a closer link with a more egalitarian form of capitalism. The current political atmosphere has echoes of the ‘Us and Them’ attitudes prevalent in the 1970s, and this needs addressing by empowering people to be more in control their own destiny.
What has been the most important development in employee share ownership during your career?
The partial move from share options largely focused on senior management to all employee share ownership, now known as the Share Incentive Plan. However, it has much further to go.
Which change to employee share plans legislation, in the UK or elsewhere, would you most like to see?
Enabling employees in companies where the Share Incentive Plan has not been introduced to take the initiative by opening plans with a provider of their choice.
Why do you think employee share ownership has enjoyed cross-party support in the UK?
Because it is genuinely focused on a more egalitarian society where individuals can take more control of their lives. This is not surprising in a democracy, where all parties should seek to empower and benefit the voting individual.
Which aspect of the Esop Centre do you most value?
Helping to keep us focused on the task of encouraging wider employee share ownership.
Which aspect of the Esop Centre would you most like to change?
There is a need for a much deeper look at the health of listed share ownership, as more companies turn to Private Equity and less companies are quoted on the stock market. This encourages an increased and unhealthy level of institutional intermediation, and it may require more focus on customer share ownership in addition to employee share ownership.
Part of this is due to the emergence of a very small number of tech giants with immense buying power, which is driving the ‘trade sales’ market, and it has the potential seriously to undermine the extent of employee share ownership.
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
A society governed by unconditional love
What is your most marked characteristic?
Having ideas which can change the world hopefully for the better, and seeking to take action to implement them (doesn’t everyone do this?)
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Pass – it depends from which perspective!
What historical figure do you most identify with?
Pass – there are several I aspire to, but ‘identify with’ is more challenging.
Which living person do you most admire?
It would have been Nelson Mandela had he still been alive.
Who are your heroes in real life?
Which word or phrases do you most overuse?
Seeking logical connections between seemingly unconnected issues.
What is your most treasured possession?
The love which is God, which must be given in the same measure that we receive it – abundantly.