Blue Sky Financial Planning Ltd, a premier business partner with the Dorset Chamber, is pleased to announce that as of the end of their financial year December 2022, 100% of their shareholding has been transferred to an Employee Ownership Trust (EOT) for the benefit of employees.
Gary Neild, the founder and CEO of Blue Sky was understandably delighted to share this news with us here at the Chamber. The EOT legislation was introduced in the UK in 2014 and was established to encourage more shareholders to establish a corporate structure similar to the John Lewis model. The aim is to facilitate wider employee ownership but less than 2,000 companies have embraced an EOT across all sectors since the legislation was introduced. However, numbers are growing rapidly and Blue Sky is delighted to be amongst them.
Blue Sky’s eligible employees now indirectly own 100% of the business and collectively, are beneficiaries of the Trust, receiving financial benefits that ordinarily would be given to shareholders.
Gary said “it seemed poignant in our twentieth year of development to make such a progressive and dynamic change. Myself and the team are delighted”.
What was the rationale for choosing an EOT?
As part of his diligence, Gary spoke to a number of potential suitors who were interested in buying the company but the exercise, over a 3-4 year period, merely reinforced to him what he always believed; “any succession plan had to protect our legacy and continue to support our ethos and culture. It had to provide continuity for both clients and the Blue Sky team.”
Gary went onto state “it’s always been a privilege to look after clients’ money but our approach is so much more than just looking after assets. We are financial planners. We are coaches, mentors and educators. Our approach is very much focussed on enabling our clients to live the most fulfilling life possible. To enjoy their money whilst they have good health, in the knowledge, they will never run out of money.
We create strong mutual trust and bonds with our clients, and it became evident to me during my conversations with potential purchasers and advisors that most companies could not replicate what we do. It was clear that these companies invariably just wanted the client assets, with not much consideration to financial planning”.
Why transfer 100%
Consideration was given to a partial transfer of ownership, but it was felt by Gary that if there was conviction for engaging with an EOT, then why not embrace the concept in its entirety.
Gary has committed to another five years as CEO but has already engaged the services of an experienced Chief Operation Officer and a new Financial Planner in the first couple of weeks of 2023. Progress indeed with really exciting times ahead.
What do members of the team think?
Russell Skinner, a fellow director, summed up the transfer nicely:
“Employee involvement is central to how Blue Sky operates. Historically, we have had a relatively collaborative structure with a high level of engagement from the team. This cultural approach led the directors to immediately believe that Blue Sky was a perfect fit for an EOT”.