Our specialist adviser Glen Dott attended the recent EOA Conference 2023 which took place in Liverpool on 27-28 November 2023. With 2 days of jam-packed activities, from keynote speakers, breakout sessions, silent theatre, fireside chats to the exhibition area, conference dinner and networking opportunities, we caught up with Glen for his top five takeaways from the conference:
1. Key note speech from Joe Garner
The conference opened with a motivational speech from Joe Garner former CEO of Nationwide Building Society and Head of HSBC in the UK. His overriding message was one of trust and leading with humanity and purpose. During the pandemic he chose to distribute the first 500 laptops to those working in an office rather than those shielding at home so that everyone could work from home and stay safe. My instinct was that employees would go a long way to please Joe.
2. Philip Baxendale Fellowship Award
Steve Parfett, founder Director of Parfetts, received the Philip Baxendale Fellowship Award for his outstanding contribution to the growth of employee ownership in the UK at the Employee Ownership Awards that took place after dinner. Co-operative Development Scotland and a group of advisers were hosted by Steve at an Employee Ownership Learning Journey a number of years ago. Steve specifically mentioned the help he received from Baxendale and Carole Leslie in particular in his transition to employee ownership. Both Carole, now as Ownership Associates, and Baxendale play an important role in developing the employee ownership community here in Scotland.
I could never have dreamed there would be an unending queue of people desperate to belt out ballads to 800 delegates attending the conference dinner. And boy did they take Rockeoke seriously! Employee ownership has become serious business, just like the steely eyed singers, with the total of EOBs in the UK reaching somewhere north of 1,600 businesses.
4. There’s more than one way.
I attended a breakout session run by Howden Group Holdings, the world’s largest employee-owned insurance intermediary, on their individual share ownership model. Around 35% of the shares are owned by employees with three external institutional investors owning the balance of shares equally. This model provides the liquidity required for growth and they are able to attract and retain the best employees in the business. The business remains employee-owned bound by the ethics and vision of the founder. Unusually the external equity investors have little say in how the business is run and with the share price having risen to £41 from £5 in 2016 the model works well for them.
5. EO Knowledge Programme
The conference was the perfect opportunity for the EOA to share highlights from recent research, The EO Knowledge Programme. In short, employee-owned businesses are 8-12% more productive than other business ownership forms with the sector having grown by over 30% in the last 12 months. Employee-owned businesses spend more on R&D and create more jobs that other ownership forms with 0.1% of the business population adding 0.8% of the UK GVA. And finally, they have happier employees.
Plans are already underway for the 2024 event. Visit the EOA website to find out more about attending.
To access support to become employee owned in Scotland, please get in touch using our form below.