Paul Stoddart is an independent plan consultant.
In what ways does employee share ownership serve a useful purpose?
Ownership stimulates a sense of responsibility and promotes focus. Owning company shares means being properly invested in the business that employs you, and therefore provides an opportunity to highlight a connection between what you do each day – and the reward for that effort – through a share plan. It can also serve to direct employee attention towards the factors that make the business more successful, such as sales performance and cost control. The outcome isn’t necessarily guaranteed – simply facilitating share ownership through a share plan isn’t a magic bullet. The real art is drawing clear links between employee or executive behaviour and the potential rewards.
How can we widen and deepen the adoption and use of employee share ownership?
By continuing to showcase the good and the successful on an industry platform that has credibility and practical value, the Esop Centre continues to provide the environment for sharing and learning, alongside other organisations such as Proshare and GEO.
What would you tell someone on the fence about introducing employee share ownership to their company?
I’d say that it’s time well spent to perch there for a little while to understand what you’re trying to achieve, the direction you want to take and the modus operandi. I don’t think many companies would dispute the benefit share plans bring to the employee benefits arena. However, share plans can be complex, expensive and time consuming to roll out – so these important choices have real consequences.
What do you think will change about employee share ownership over the next five years?
The continuing and unstoppable intrusion of technology into our lives will start to change behaviour by guiding employees to make better decisions, advising them how best to spend what they earn, and by helping them make the best investment decisions to achieve their goals. This will revolutionise our industry. Imagine individuals relying on technology to make those difficult choices for them? Imagine a gadget that knows all about you, with technology that can sift through masses of information to see what’s available to get you to where you want to be? It knows there’s a share plan, tracks the share price, sees your future needs, balances up the opportunity cost of participation and maybe suggests lifestyle changes to accommodate the expenditure?
Everything we interface with is changing quickly and significantly. This impacts how we work and how we live, and I think it will make our industry unrecognisable.
What has been the most important development in employee share ownership during your career?
The introduction by Gordon Brown of the Share Incentive Plan in 2000. I think SAYE has a solid place in the employee benefits tool box. However, the SIP is a great multi-tool. Deployed properly, it can be an exceptionally versatile and effective way to deliver rewards through employee engagement.
Which change to employee share plans legislation, in the UK or elsewhere, would you most like to see?
The abolition of the 10 percent of salary limit for SIP.
Why do you think employee share ownership has enjoyed cross-party support in the UK?
Because of the universal appeal that non-discretionary broad based offerings have, supported by empirical evidence to show that it’s fundamentally good for business. There is also the inertia that exists, the reluctance to withdraw such popular benefits such as SAYE and SIP when they are as entrenched as they are in the employment benefits landscape.
Which aspect of the Esop Centre do you most value?
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Enjoying the immense satisfaction of making a positive contribution. Simply being valued – it doesn’t matter for what, or by whom.
What is your most marked characteristic?
Modesty is probably the most recognisable, although there are so many. Attempting to be funny is another one.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Producing and bringing up three children without going bankrupt.
What historical figure do you most identify with?
It’s got to be my Dad – he’s quite old and I look like him. But to answer the question in the way it was intended – Howard Carter. Someone said adventure is just bad planning – I don’t think Mr Carter would agree with that!
Which living person do you most admire?
Aung San Suu Kyi
Which word or phrases do you most overuse?
I really can’t repeat them here.
What is your most treasured possession?
My drum kit. It’s a Roland TD20 electronic array of absolute percussional pleasure.