Member profile: Ann Tyler of Lewis Silkin

Ann Tyler is an associate of Mutuo and a trustee of Voice at Be Caring.

In what ways does employee share ownership serve a useful purpose?

Employee Ownership has been shown to have a hugely significant effect on the economy, promoting a culture of inclusive capitalism. Employee owned companies are more productive, have more successful rates of recruitment and retention, and employees who are both happier and healthier. Successful employee owned companies usually have a democratic governance structure and a programme of employee engagement which leads to a more open and participative workplace.

How can we widen and deepen the adoption and use of employee share ownership?

The employee owned sector is growing rapidly in the UK, following the introduction of significant tax reliefs in the Finance Act 2014. The main obstacle remains that of education and awareness raising, so that advisers can suggest and discuss employee ownership with their clients, and implement it quickly and cost effectively. Greater publicity for companies which successfully make the transition to employee ownership would help, so that their stories can inspire others. And there should be a wider range of finance options available to support transition and, if required, create liquidity for a market in the shares.

What would you tell someone on the fence about introducing employee share ownership to their company?

I would take them on a visit to one or more successful employee owned companies, such as John Lewis, in order to show them how an employee owned structure benefits every part of the business, as well as the lives of its employees (known as partners in John Lewis). There is nothing so powerful as seeing successful employee participation, engagement and democracy in action.

What do you think will change about employee share ownership over the next five years?

I think the ways employee ownership is used to achieve different policy objectives will increase. For example, we have already seen extensive use of employee ownership in the Cabinet Office programme to mutualise public services. Now a number of law firms are following the example of Grant Thornton to become a ‘shared ownership enterprise’. Many firms of architects are abandoning the traditional partnership structure and adopting EOTs. And employee ownership is the perfect way to achieve new Prime Minister Theresa May’s aspiration to give people control over their lives and create an economy that works for everyone.

What has been the most important development in employee share ownership during your career?

Undoubtedly the Nuttall Review of 2012, which carried out an extensive review of employee ownership, explained the obstacles for companies wishing to adopt it, and made recommendations to Government on how to promote it. It was supported by the work of the Cabinet Office’s Mutuals Taskforce. And it set a precedent for continuous review of employee ownership policy followed by Ed Balls when he commissioned The Hunt Review of Mutuals, which included significant proposals for employee ownership.

Which change to employee share plans legislation, in the UK or elsewhere, would you most like to see?

I would like to see the EOT legislation extended to law firms, so that they can introduce tax effective employee ownership to benefit all employees and in doing so shake up the way the legal profession operates. And also to companies with private equity investment, so that all employees can share in the growth in value of these companies on exit. More ambitiously, my work for the The Hunt Review recommended the introduction of a new tax-approved scheme comprising three elements of: all-employee participation; working life forum; working life ownership account.

Why do you think employee share ownership has enjoyed cross-party support in the UK?

Employee ownership has always enjoyed cross-party support in the UK because it is a ‘win win’ option offering benefits to company owners and employees alike, as well as to the economy. For Conservatives it offers everyone a share in capital, for Labour it promotes employee participation and profit-sharing, while for the Liberal Democrats it meets their universal criteria of fairness.

Which aspect of the Esop Centre do you most value?

Malcolm Hurlston, who established the Esop Centre nearly 30 years ago, who has campaigned tirelessly for more and better employee ownership throughout that period, and whose knowledge of the sector is second to none.

Which aspect of the Esop Centre would you most like to change?

I would like to see it develop a think-tank role, to carry out authoritative research and make policy proposals.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

Sitting on Pentle Bay, Tresco. The best beach in the world

What is your most marked characteristic?

Alternatively feisty, funny and friendly. Often at the same time.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

My daughters - though that is largely down to them!

What historical figure do you most identify with?

My Welsh grandfather, who was a miner and leader of the Welsh NUM

Which living person do you most admire?

Hillary Clinton

Who are your heroes in real life?

Melvyn Bragg, Neil Kinnock and Andy Murray

Which word or phrases do you most overuse?

Too many hyperboles

What is your most treasured possession?

A Henry Moore print from his last ‘Mother and Child’ series, personally dedicated to me