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Making good decisions: ProShare Employee Share Plans Conference, 8 October 2015


Held once again in the City of London, the 2015 ProShare Employee Share Plans Conference attracted hundreds of members from  the business community, including representatives from FTSE100 and FTSE250 companies, a variety of international organisations and innovative start-ups.

This year’s conference was run under the theme of “Making Good Decisions”, which was chosen to reflect the growing number of choices that employees and employers face when delivering or deciding upon the most appropriate workplace benefits and the importance of employee share ownership in linking them all together.

Setting share plans in a broader context, the Conference set out to explore the role that employers have in supporting their employees’ decision-making process and what constitutes a “good decision” among employees. This was done, as ever, through a series of seminars, discussion groups and panel sessions, all delivered by a line-up of expert and inspirational speakers from a diverse range of organisations such as BT, King Digital Entertainment (creators of ‘Candy Crush Saga’ and other games), BAE Systems, Henderson Global Investors, Barclays, Merlin Entertainment, AstraZeneca, Deloitte, Fidelity, New Bridge Street, Marks & Spencer, Clifford Chance, Linklaters, Tapestry Compliance and Pinsent Masons, with keynote addresses from TSB CEO Dr Paul Pester and Olympic Gold-winning rower, Ben Hunt-Davis MBE.

The day began with ProShare’s Head of Employee Share Ownership Gabbi Stopp welcoming delegates, setting out the context for the current state of the employee share ownership industry and discussing her plans for the future. Gabbi reminded delegates that despite recent successes in raising monthly contribution limits, it was not a case of ‘job done’ for tax-advantaged plans and urged against complacency, while discussing how ProShare would be working with stakeholders to widen participation and renew its membership offering in the coming months. Read more...

Following Gabbi’s introduction, ProShare welcomed its first keynote speaker, current TSB CEO Dr Paul Pester who engaged delegates with his outline of the bank’s approach to employee share ownership. When taking up his post, he and other members of the senior management team decided to make each employee a partner in the bank by offering them shares in the company. This was done, Dr Pester said, to align the interests of each employee with the customers they are tasked to serve and has to date been a rounding success.

The morning session began in earnest after Dr Pester’s remarks and delegates chose between a number of different breakout sessions to attend, which covered almost every aspect of implementing and running share plans from tax considerations to share schemes abroad.

Delegates returned to the main hall shortly after lunch to hear the inspirational words of former Olympian, Ben Hunt-Davis MBE. After his success in the rowing eights in Sydney 2000, Ben now works as a motivational speaker and business expert, always using his mantra of “will it make the boat go faster?” Ben regaled the audience with the preparation that he and his little-fancied crew undertook to win Olympic Gold, always asking this same question of everything they did. He urged delegates to focus on what’s important, take personal responsibility, focus on performance to get results and to always work with others efficiently.

Feeling thoroughly inspired, the delegates reconvened for the afternoon sessions, where once again, a number of seminars were available to choose from. These included a panel Q&A session with HMRC, a discussion of behavioural finance and how it affects decision making and the importance of financial well-being in the workplace.

After a long, invigorating and highly-enjoyable day, the delegates once again returned to the main hall for the prize draw and closing remarks, before heading to the “Marketplace” for a well-earned glass of wine and the chance to reflect upon what they had learned.

As always with the annual Conference, ProShare is indebted to many people and organisations whose efforts make such a great occasion possible. As such, ProShare would like to extend its thanks to its sponsors – to Ashley Price and his team at YBS Share Plans, to Barclays, Capita, Elian, Equiniti, Sanne, Solium, Baker & McKenzie, Equatex, ShareGift, Tapestry Compliance, and to Buck Consultants at Xerox – without whom the event would not be possible and the many delegates, presenters and seminar leaders whose expertise is invaluable.

Following the conference, Gabbi Stopp, Head of Employee Share Ownership at ProShare, said:

“The importance of employee share ownership to businesses, their employees and the economy as a whole is growing and our annual Employee Share Plans conference reflected this passion and commitment by the industry for furthering this ideal.

“We’d like to thank everyone who attended what was a hugely enjoyable and successful conference and especially to our keynote speakers, sponsors and delegates for making the annual Employee Share Plans Conference such a resounding success.”

As we head into the closing weeks of 2015, it is important to remember the inspirational words of Admiral CEO Henry Engelhardt: “when everyone owns shares, everyone’s shares do better.” ProShare and its members will be working hard to ensure that this is very much the case.

Capita Asset Services