Accounting software firm Sage set up a global share option plan in 2017, based on the design of the UK’s sharesave scheme. Employees can put up to £500 a month into a savings account with the option of buying shares at a discounted price, set at launch, in three years’ time, or two in the US. The scheme has run every year since, with employees able to contribute to multiple plans, as long as they do not pay in more than the maximum amount overall.
Take-up in the UK has always been strong, starting off at 51% in 2017, compared to a global average of 21%. But a concerted effort globally, led by Julie Shepherd, director, share plans, has seen overall participation in the plan increase to 64% in the UK, and 31% globally.
The business has an educational hub on its intranet which includes a myth-busting section. “We have had people say they’re not going to join because they could lose money,” she says. “We make it clear [they] can take [their] money out at any time. Another one is people saying they won’t be with us for that long, but the average length of service in Sage is about six years, so they might be here longer than they think.”
During the pandemic, the business created a video featuring employees on Zoom calls. “We had a range of people from management down to an apprentice, who was going to join the plan for the first time, talking about why they were thinking of joining,” says Shepherd. Previous campaigns in the office have included posters and ‘lunch and learn’ sessions, where people could come along and find out more about it.
To date, the global plan has had one maturity, enabling those participating to make a profit by exercising the option to buy shares. “People used it for deposits for mortgages, to pay off student loans, buy cars or fund holidays,” says Shepherd.