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From its headquarters in Clonakilty in West Cork, Global Shares, an employee-owned financial technology company, runs a network of 15 offices around Europe, Asia, and the US. The company employs 340 staff and recently announced plans to increase that number to 500 as part of a mission to achieve a billion-dollar valuation by 2024.

The company operates at the coalface of a rapidly growing industry, managing employee share plans and stock management plans. It performs this task for some of the world’s best-known companies in more than 100 countries. 

The COVID-19 crisis has had an initial short-term negative impact on business development and the acquisition of new clients. However, Stephen Tabb, Global Share’s Vice President of HR, argues that its employee-led values will be key to helping the business navigate the pandemic. 

Those five values – people, bravery, global, integrity, service – were defined by the employees in a recent process. Tabb says the company’s leadership does not believe that colleagues achieve their potential in a prescriptive environment. Instead, the company believe its role is to create conditions in which staff motivate themselves and can be the best they can be. 

To understand the impact of the crisis on the business, you must understand the nature of the business itself. The relationship between Global Shares and its customers is, by its nature, long term, as the company is delivering administration and ensuring compliance to ESOPs (Employee Stock Ownership Plan) and LTIPs (Long-Term Incentive Plan) for listed companies and companies on the path to listings or other liquidity events. 

Like most businesses, Tabb says the COVID-19 crisis has had an initial impact on Global Shares. The decision to establish an ESOP can be deferred. In an uncertain world, many of Global Shares’ clients are focused on managing and conserving cash. Therefore, an investment in an ESOP or LTIP is something which can easily be delayed. 

On the plus side, however, many companies around the world are now offsetting financial loss and cashflow difficulties by incentivising employees with equity, almost as a fundraising and retention tool. 

As such, new business at Global Shares has now surpassed previous financial years with some of the largest companies in the world coming on board.

The company’s leadership does not believe that colleagues achieve their potential in a prescriptive environment. Instead, the company believe its role is to create conditions in which staff motivate themselves and can be the best they can be.

The response

The impact on how Global Shares conducts its business has been significant. Overall, however, the amount, level, detail, and frequency of communication has increased. 

Having invested in remote working capacity in 2018, around 320 of 340 staff are now working remotely. 

Field-based staff are now interacting remotely with customers and prospective customers. While this is effective at supporting continuing business, there is a sense that it is not as effective for building relationships and securing new customers. 

The company is now working to establish a new norm and has invested in improved technology to host webinars, virtual events and, to develop new ways of engaging with clients and prospects. 

The business has increased its investment in training and development of staff. There has been a variety of virtual initiatives including lunch, coffee breaks, bingo, wine classes, quizzes, and cultural exchanges between sites.

Those five values – people, bravery, global, integrity, service – were defined by the employees in a recent process

The impact

The company surveys staff, customers, and measures performance routinely. All indicators show that customer service levels are being maintained, and the business has noted an increase in the level of productivity. 

While the priority was business continuity, the sudden adaption triggered by the COVID-19 crisis is resulting in a lower cost to serve and increased opportunities to consolidate and make even more progress for expansion.

The outcome

Global Shares believes that COVID-19 will not have any material medium or long-term impact on business. In fact, in a world where remote working is increasing, it expects more companies to use ESOPs and LTIPs to build and cement loyalty and commitment and also to underpin values. 

Global Shares is working on the assumption that there is no going back to what was regarded as a ‘normal’ way of working. In this context, the Company is working on writing its Five-Year Strategy Plan to increase relevance in a COVID-19 world. 

Solutions to the challenge for staff who are responsible for field-based customer interaction are not yet resolved, but they have demonstrated they can work effectively from home. This may prompt the question of what additional advantage is gained by releasing these staff back into the field.

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