Business & Relationship Manager at i-confidential
This article originally appeared in the Ownership Associates newsletter. Ownership Associates is a governance advisory service for institutional investors.
i-confidential was established in 2008. Today, it has grown into a permanent team of 19, along with 140+ associates who help us deliver a high level of service to our clients.
Until 2018, the company was fully owned by the three founding directors. At the momentous 10-year milestone, however, they took the bold decision to make i-confidential employee owned. At the time, I was an employee of two years who already felt the company was very inclusive, but this sounded like they were taking it to the next level.
The directors planned to sell 55% of the business to the employees through an Employee-Owned Trust (EOT). The trust would hold the shares on behalf of the employees and allow us to manage a controlling share of i-confidential.
How would the employees fund it, you may be asking? Well, this was the clever bit. The company itself would provide the funding, allowing the employees to own part of the company without any individual risk. Not only were we now business owners with a genuine say in how it is run, but there were several other benefits we could gain from the EOT model. Honestly though, I really did not know what it meant for me in practice.
Initially the focus was about the potential for personal gain. A share of profits, bigger, partially tax-free bonuses, various memberships, and discount schemes – you get the picture! It was all short-sighted and naïve. The fact was, I could influence the direction of the company and had a responsibility to do so. I had never truly thought past the contributions I made to my immediate team.
Over time, I began to understand the influence I could have. I became incredibly excited to have an opportunity to turn moans and groans into constructive ideas that could possibly drive the company forward. I was starting to feel part of something so much bigger that might allow me to showcase my experience and skills. Yes, the management structure of the company remained, but a platform had emerged for me to be heard.
Three years on and I won't lie. We have received some of the above-mentioned benefits, but becoming employee owned has given us so much more. We have attracted high-quality talent to the team and the staff turnover is lower. Employees are more engaged and committed as they have become comfortable and willing to exchange ideas to solve issues that perhaps do not immediately affect them or their team. We have also seen an increase in cross-team collaboration as we drive the company forward together.
As individuals we all wear two hats, as employees and business owners. However, we all share one common goal – SUCCESS!
Becoming an EOT reinforced our long-held belief that i-confidential's prosperity stems from the strength of its people, and encouraging inclusiveness in everything we do. I am proud to be part of it.