Our guide to Performance Share Plans (PSP)

Our guide to Performance Share Plans (PSP)

Our guide to Performance Share Plans (PSP)

Performance Share Plans (PSP) serve as a strategic tool for companies aiming to align employee performance with organisational success. This comprehensive incentive program grants employees shares based on predetermined performance criteria.

Introduction of Performance Share Plan (PSP)

In this guide to Performance Share Plans, we explore the various aspects of this incentive structure. From understanding its core functionality to navigating the diverse benefits it offers, we provide insights into the establishment requirements, tax implications, and associated risks.

How Performance Share Plans Function

A Performance Share Plan (PSP) is an executive compensation strategy that aligns the interests of company leaders with overall organisational success. In a PSP, executives receive awards in the form of shares, and these awards are contingent on achieving predefined performance targets. The performance is typically measured against specific financial, operational, or strategic metrics. As executives meet or exceed these goals, they unlock shares, creating a direct link between their performance and financial rewards.

ESOP vs. shares_ how they differ

Advantages of Performance Shares

Performance Share Plans (PSPs) offer several benefits. They serve as strong incentives by directly tying executive rewards to the company’s performance, motivating executives to contribute to overall success. PSPs also encourage a focus on long-term goals, fostering sustained achievements. Moreover, they help retain talent by giving executives a stake in the company’s success, reducing turnover. These plans provide a clear and measurable way to evaluate executive performance, creating a results-driven culture. In essence, implementing PSPs strategically enhances organisational performance and strengthens the connection between executive leadership and corporate success.

Types of Performance Shares

Performance Shares come in various types, offering flexibility for companies to tailor incentive structures to their specific needs.

Here are some common types of Performance Shares:

Time-Based Performance Shares
Time-Based Performance Shares provide executives with shares based on a set schedule, not contingent on specific performance metrics. Executives receive an initial share allocation upon grant, and these shares vest gradually over a specified period, often tied to their tenure. The vesting schedule can be structured annually, quarterly, or as per another specified timeframe, encouraging executives to stay, especially in industries prioritising employee retention where measuring specific performance metrics might be challenging.
Performance-Vesting Shares
Performance-vesting shares blend time-based and performance-based vesting in equity compensation. Unlike traditional time-based vesting, where shares vest on a set schedule, these shares require executives to meet specific performance targets within a designated time period. Vesting hinges on predefined metrics like financial goals or stock price targets. Executives receive a share grant, and full vesting depends on meeting or surpassing established benchmarks. This aligns executive compensation with company performance, linking rewards to strategic achievements. Balancing long-term commitment (time-based) with contributions to the company’s success (performance-based) motivates executives to drive positive outcomes.
Relative Total Shareholder Return (TSR) Shares
Relative Total Shareholder Return (TSR) Shares tie executive rewards to the company’s stock performance compared to peers. Executives earn shares based on the total shareholder return relative to a selected group of peer companies. Calculation involves measuring the company’s stock price appreciation and dividend yield against predefined peers over a specified period. Outperformance results in a higher share allocation, while underperformance may reduce or eliminate the allocation. This aligns executive compensation with the company’s market performance, encouraging strategies that enhance shareholder value compared to industry competitors. Relative TSR Shares offer a performance-oriented incentive, fostering a competitive drive among executives for superior results in the market.
Factors to consider before implementing ESOPs

Requirement To Establish a PSP

Establishing a Performance Share Plan in Singapore involves a comprehensive approach. Firstly, in the design phase, clear objectives must be defined, aligning them with the company’s overarching goals. Additionally, specifying performance metrics that determine share or cash allocations is crucial. Legal and regulatory compliance is vital, requiring adherence to regulations set by the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (ACRA) and the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS).

Transparent communication with employees is essential, detailing the criteria for earning shares, the potential value of the awards, and clarity on vesting schedules and conditions. Employee eligibility is determined based on factors like job level, performance, and tenure, and the plan’s scope may include all employees or specific groups. Establishing performance metrics involves outlining key indicators relevant to the company’s objectives. Defining a vesting period with a graded approach encourages employee retention. Valuation methods for PSP awards, whether in shares or cash equivalents, need to be consistent and fair.

Efficient administration and record-keeping systems, potentially utilising specialised software are essential. Understanding tax implications for both the company and employees is important, involving consultation with tax professionals for compliance with Singapore’s tax laws. Obtaining board approval aligning with the company’s overall compensation strategy is the final step, ensuring the success of the PSP in motivating employees and aligning their interests with the company’s performance. Consulting legal, financial, and HR professionals is advisable throughout the design and implementation phases to ensure a seamless process.

Explore our comprehensive ESOP platform that simplifies the management and administration of your Performance Share Plan (PSP).

Tips for successful share scheme execution

Tax Treatment of PSP

The tax treatment of a Performance Share Plan (PSP) varies by locations and design features, with key considerations:

Taxable Event
Receipt of performance shares is often non-taxable; taxation typically occurs upon vesting when shares become transferable.
Taxation Upon Vesting
Upon vesting, ordinary income tax may apply on the shares’ fair market value, treated as compensation in taxable income.
Capital Gains Tax
Selling vested shares may incur capital gains tax, potentially more favourable than ordinary income tax rates.
Timing of Taxation
Taxation timing varies, some tax gains at vesting, others at sale.
Withholding Requirements
Taxation timing varies, some tax gains at vesting, others at sale.
Employee Deductions
Taxation timing varies, some tax gains at vesting, others at sale.
Social Security and Medicare Taxes
Taxation timing varies, some tax gains at vesting, others at sale.
International Considerations
Multinational companies face complexity due to diverse tax laws; compliance with international tax regulations is crucial.

Restriction and Risk on Performance Share

Implementing a Performance Share Plan (PSP) comes with certain restrictions and risks that require careful consideration:

Regulatory Compliance
Adhering to local and international regulatory requirements is crucial to avoid legal issues. Non-compliance may lead to penalties and reputational damage.
Shareholder Dilution
Offering performance shares may dilute existing shareholders’ ownership. Striking a balance between rewarding employees and maintaining shareholder value is essential.
Market Volatility
Fluctuations in the stock market can impact the value of performance shares. Participants may experience lower-than-expected returns if the market performs poorly.
Performance Metrics Ambiguity
Unclear or subjective performance metrics may lead to disputes. Defining precise and measurable criteria is essential to ensure fairness and transparency.
Employee Retention Challenges
While PSPs aim to retain talent, there’s a risk that employees might leave before the shares vest, resulting in unused allocations.
Communication and Understanding
Inadequate communication about the PSP details can lead to misunderstandings among employees, affecting morale and the effectiveness of the plan.
Financial Performance Dependency
PSPs tie rewards to the company’s financial performance. Poor performance may result in lower returns for participants, impacting their motivation.
Tax Implications
Tax regulations can change, affecting the tax treatment of performance shares. Staying informed about tax laws is essential to avoid unexpected financial consequences.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Can performance shares decrease in value?

The value of performance shares can decrease. The value of performance shares is often tied to the company’s stock price or other predetermined performance metrics. If the company’s stock price declines or if the predetermined performance goals are not met, the value of the performance shares can decrease. This is a risk associated with performance-based compensation plans, as the value is contingent on the company’s overall performance.

Are there tax implications for receiving performance shares?

Yes, there are tax implications for receiving performance shares. The taxation of performance shares can vary based on the jurisdiction and specific tax regulations. In many cases, taxation occurs when the performance shares vest or when the recipient sells the shares. In some jurisdictions, the value of the performance shares at the time of vesting may be treated as ordinary income, subject to income tax.

Can performance share plans be customised for different employees?

PSP in Singapore can be customised for different employees. Companies often tailor PSPs to align with their organisational goals, individual roles, and employee preferences. Customisation may involve varying performance metrics, vesting periods, or the number of shares granted based on factors such as seniority, job responsibilities, or performance expectations.

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Maximising performance: the potential benefits and drawbacks of employee share options plans

Maximising performance_ the potential benefits and drawbacks of employee share options plans

Maximising performance: the potential benefits and drawbacks of employee share options plans

Employee share plans are becoming an increasingly popular strategic tool, with over 80% of companies in Asia using them to bolster their competitive edge in the current talent market and align their workforce with their organisational growth trajectory. Equity based remuneration such as employee share option plans (ESOPs) or employee stock option schemes (ESOSs), not only incentivise employees to work towards company’s goals but also increase staff retention rates.

In this article, we investigate the benefits and potential drawbacks of ESOPs for companies in Singapore and provide advice for ensuring successful share scheme implementation.

How ESOPs work

ESOPs grant employees the option to purchase company shares at a predetermined price (also known as the exercise price), often lower than the prevailing market price. After a moratorium or ‘vesting’ period, the employee may exercise their options by buying the shares at the exercise price and become a part owner of the company. The plan rules or an internal remuneration committee generally sets the exercise price and timeframes of ESOPs.

You may also hear ESOPs referred to as employee share option schemes or stock option plans.

ESOP vs. shares: how they differ

ESOPs offer employees the unique opportunity to secure a stake in their company’s future success without the immediate financial commitment required when purchasing shares in a publicly listed company. ESOPs also differ from share schemes like restricted share plans and performance share plans, which grant employee shares as part of their remuneration after a set vesting period once agreed-upon targets are met.

ESOP vs. shares_ how they differ

Top ESOP benefits explained

ESOPs can influence employee attitudes and behaviours in multiple ways, providing benefits to companies and their workers.

The main benefits of ESOPs are:

  • improved employee engagement;
  • increased innovation and productivity; and
  • reduced employee turnover.
Employee engagement
ESOPs can be an effective employee engagement strategy due to the sense of company ownership and an alignment of worker and employer objectives, goals and values. In a recent study of employee equity plan usage in Asia, about 60% of participating workers either agreed or strongly agreed that their personal success and their company’s success were one and the same.

As share value depends on the company’s success, employees are encouraged to put in more effort to improve the company’s market performance and also make decisions that promote long-term value creation rather than short-term gains.
Increased innovation and productivity
When employees feel they play a fundamental role in the company’s growth and can see the tangible effects of share price rises in their share plan, they are incentivised to expand their focus beyond day-to-day responsibilities. ESOPs provide channels for them to ideate, innovate and engage in activities that drive the company forward.

When well-managed and communicated, ESOPs also provide employees with clarity on common goals, which further aids engagement and productivity.
Reduced employee turnover
Research shows that the likelihood of an employee resigning decreases as the value of employee shares rises.

“ESOP participants tend to stay in their job for longer than expected because they know they will be able to reap the rewards i.e. the number of options exercisable after the vesting period. This is even more so, when the share price increases over the years.” explains Nora Jasmine Lai, Operations Manager of Employee Plan Services for BoardRoom.

Alongside the prospect of financial gains, the partial ownership offered by ESOPs also promotes job satisfaction and a sense of belonging.

“When employees are rewarded through their ESOP, it strengthens their sense of recognition within the company and they are part of its growth and success,” Nora explains. “In the long run, this motivates them to grow with the company.”

ESOP-led talent retention has a variety of benefits, including reduced recruitment and training costs, improved business continuity, knowledge retention and the progression of long-term organisational goals.

Potential drawbacks of ESOPs

Depending on a range of factors – such as your organisation type and performance, the quality of plan execution and market fluctuations – ESOP implementation may be challenging or even unsuitable.

Some potential drawbacks of ESOPs include:

Employees must pay for the shares upfront with their own money before receiving shares into their account and realising them as monetary gains. One way companies can alleviate this challenge and exhibit dedication to ESOP goals, is to partner with local banks, who may offer bridging loans to employees, contingent on the immediate repayment of the loan upon share sale.
Employees cannot realise their gains if the share price drops below the exercise price in an economic downturn. They may leave the company before the share price improves, thus losing the opportunity to reap their rewards.
Employees who are not Singaporean residents may be subject to withholding tax when they exercise their options and realise a gain.
ESOP management can become increasingly complicated and time-consuming as time passes, your company grows across borders, and there are more plans to design and keep track of – each with their own vesting periods and exercise price. Compliant administration and reporting must be ensured across all relevant jurisdictions.

Companies can ensure smooth ESOP implementation by engaging a premium ESOP services provider – ideally, one that specialises in a range of complementary corporate services such as tax. Firms that offer customisable ESOP platforms such as EmployeeServe can help to simplify and streamline your scheme management by allowing employees to view and transact on holdings in real time.

Factors to consider before implementing ESOPs

Factors to consider before implementing ESOPs

If you are implementing ESOPs in your organisation for the first time, meticulous planning is essential.

Management staff should consider the following ahead of the design phase:

  • What are your organisational needs and objectives, and how can ESOPs help you achieve them?
  • What percentage of the total number of shares will be set aside?
  • How will the vested options of departing employees be treated?
  • How will employees manage or assess their ESOPs?
  • Will you implement a digital ESOP management system? If so, is it user-friendly enough?
  • Is a share custody account required for overseas participants?

An experienced ESOP services provider can explain how ESOPs work, answer your questions about ESOP implementation, and guide you through the design process to help tailor the plan to your specific needs.

If you already have a share scheme in place and want to review it, the best way to do this is to partner with a leading ESOP services provider. ESOP specialists have the knowledge, skills and technological know-how to update your scheme to align with your business goals.

Tips for successful share scheme execution

Tips for successful share scheme execution

According to Nora, effective ESOP implementation requires two things: a quality platform and strong communication from HR and management.

“Often, employees don’t understand their role in a huge scheme,” she says. “There is often too much jargon and complexity tied to the scheme, which stops people from understanding the benefits they can reap.

“But as a part owner of the company, they want to do more and understand their role in the entire cycle.”

A purpose-built platform helps employees understand how the scheme works, especially if it is easy to use and supported by regular communication from HR and the broader company.

“The system can release regular communications, such as newsletters, to allow employees to keep track of the goals set via the scheme,” Nora says. As a result, employees stay more focused on progressing long-term organisational goals.

Personalised employee share options services

When executed thoughtfully and managed effectively, employee share options can catalyse sustainable growth, benefiting both employees and the business as a whole.

For businesses in Singapore seeking to implement or refine their share scheme, BoardRoom’s premium ESOP services offer a reliable end-to-end solution. With over 60 years of experience and a deep understanding of the local business landscape, we can assist in creating, implementing and managing ESOPs that align with your organisation’s goals and values.

Our highly sought-after ESOP services give you access to:

  • a dedicated ESOP platform, EmployeeServe, empowering you to navigate the complexities of ESOPs with confidence so that employee satisfaction is achieved and regulatory compliance is assured;
  • in-house experts in multiple aspects of ESOPs, plus a strong network of trusted vendors, including ESOP designers and lawyers, for a seamless, comprehensive service via one point of contact; and
  • share custody accounts for overseas participants, making share trading and the realisation of cash proceeds easy.

Contact us to learn more about our expert ESOP services today.

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Why employee engagement strategies matter

employee engagement strategies

Why employee engagement strategies matter

What exactly is employee engagement?

Despite being a popular concept in HR and management circles, the term ‘employee engagement’ is often misunderstood. It tends to be mistaken for either employee job satisfaction or happiness.

Employee satisfaction is about meeting your employees’ fundamental needs so that they feel content with their job and working conditions. Employee engagement, by contrast, is more about how connected your people feel to your organisation, and whether they are willing to go ‘above and beyond’.

Discovering how to improve employee satisfaction in an organisation is certainly important. However, implementing effective employee engagement strategies could prove invaluable for your company. Below, we explore why, before outlining some ways that your company could increase employee engagement.

Why is employee engagement important?

Employee engagement is a win-win for both companies and their employees. According to one expert, “People who are highly engaged at work not only provide greater value to the organisation but also experience a better quality of life at work.”

As it turns out, engaged employees create a significant amount of value for the companies they work for. In 2016, researchers at Gallup reviewed existing employee engagement studies and found that “engaged employees produce better business outcomes than other employees do – across industries, company sizes and nationalities, and in good economic times and bad.”

More specifically, the Gallup researchers identified that, compared to their less engaged counterparts, engaged teams had:

  • 41% lower absenteeism;
  • 17% better productivity;
  • 24–59% less turnover;
  • 10% better customer ratings;
  • 20% more sales; and
  • 21% higher profitability.

In short: the research found that employee engagement significantly affects almost every business success metric.

what is employee engagement

The latest trends in employee engagement

Knowing all of the potential benefits of increasing employee engagement is one thing. Actually making it happen can be more complex (and the best strategy can vary for different companies). To help your company find the right approach, here is an overview of some of the latest trends in employee engagement strategies:

01 Providing managerial support to employees

According to The State of Employee Experience 2021 research report by EngageRocket, the most impactful way to influence engagement in Singapore is to provide managerial support to employees. Specifically, employees want to feel comfortable discussing work-related problems with their managers. Training managers to use empathy and openness may help to facilitate these types of conversations, and ultimately, help to improve relationships with employees.

02 Giving clear, regular feedback to employees

Another impactful way to influence engagement identified in the EngageRocket research is to regularly provide clear feedback to employees. Ensure that managers in your organisation schedule regular one-on-one meetings with employees so that providing feedback simply becomes part of the workplace routine. Make KPIs for employees straightforward too, so that they can receive more precise feedback.

03 Listening to employees and acting on their feedback

93% of survey respondents in the 2021 Singapore Employee Experience Trends Report believe that it is important for their company to listen to feedback. However, only 21% of respondents said that their company acted very well on feedback. Help the managers in your organisation to develop concrete action plans for incorporating feedback, and regularly report on progress to both employees and senior management.

04 Rewarding and recognising employees

‘recognition for good work’ was one of the top five drivers of employee engagement identified in the 2020 Singapore Employee Experience Trends Report. Implementing an Employee Share Option Plan (ESOP) can be an effective way to motivate employees and increase employee engagement.

latest trends in employee engagement

How ESOPs can improve employee engagement

An Employee Share Option Plan (also known as an Employee Stock Option Plan) gives employees the option to purchase company shares at a future date for an agreed price. ESOPs differ from Employee Share Plans (including ESASs and ESPPs) in that they only give employees the future option to buy shares. In an ESAS or ESPS, employees either receive fully paid-up shares or can purchase them outright.

One of the fundamental mechanisms behind the success of ESOPs as an employee engagement tool is the concept of ‘ownership culture’. Essentially, ESOPs allow employees to become part-owners in the company they work for. As a result, employees tend to feel valued at work and become invested in the company’s long-term success, which in turn increases their share prices and dividend payments.

Beyond increasing employee engagement, ESOPs can also help to improve staff retention and wellbeing. In 2020, a Rutgers University analysis of employee attitudes towards ESOPs found that “employees with greater psychological ownership are less likely to leave and experience burnout.” A second, subsequent study found that companies with ESOPs had “dramatically outperformed” non-ESOP companies during the pandemic in job retention and maintaining employee work hours and salary.

In short, ESOPs can create a win-win for both employees and their companies. They are a great way to reward and compensate employees, which helps to boost engagement while at the same time freeing up cash for your company. And ultimately, better employee engagement could lead to significant increases in profitability.

Keys to a successful ESOP

However, ESOP success relies on how well a company communicates the plan’s value to employees and manages plan administration. Making it easy for staff to accept offers, track benefits, exercise options and sell shares in real-time means they are more likely to find value in an ESOP. One way to give employees this type of ESOP visibility is through a self-serve platform such as EmployeeServe.

Demo of EmployeeServe platform

Demo of EmployeeServe platform

Another key strategy to boost employee participation in ESOPs, is to develop a comprehensive staff communication plan. This plan must clearly explain the purpose of ESOPs and their value before the company begins to implement an Employee Share Option Plan. Our experienced employee share plan team can help your company communicate all the ESOP benefits to your staff and answer any technical questions.

In addition, there are a wealth of administrative processes required to successfully maintain an ESOP. You must ensure that your company has adequate resources to administer the plan. Instead of allocating in-house resources to do the time-consuming ESOP admin work, our dedicated employee share plan team here at BoardRoom can take care of it all for you. Our systems and processes are entirely flexible, allowing us to tailor a solution to meet your needs.

How BoardRoom can help you implement your ESOP

While ESOPs have many advantages, they can also be challenging to implement without the right tools and expertise.
Speak to one of our experts today about how we can help your business to implement and administer a successful Employee Share Option Plan.

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The Ultimate Guide to an Employee Stock Option Plan (ESOP)

The Ultimate Guide to an Employee Stock Option Plan (ESOP)

The Ultimate Guide to an Employee Stock Option Plan (ESOP)

Introduction to Employee Stock Option Plan (ESOP)

We have all heard of an employee stock option plan or employee stock ownership plan (ESOP), but how does this scheme work in practice, and how do you determine if it is suitable for your company?

If you are considering implementing an ESOP for your organisation, you may have questions about how it works, the benefits, and the factors to consider. In this article, we will answer these questions and provide the basic guidelines of an ESOP plan, including how it works and how to set up an ESOP, so you can see if it might be a viable solution for your business. We will also show you how BoardRoom can help you with your ESOP needs in Singapore.

What is an Employee Stock Option Plan (ESOP)?

An Employee Stock Option Plan (ESOP) is one form of remuneration given to employees by means of retaining them or rewarding them based on their performance. They are usually offered in the form of company shares, which provide the employee with ownership rights as a shareholder of the company. As part of an ESOP scheme, the employee can acquire the shares at a predetermined price, or what we call an exercise price.

ESOPs are designed to align the interests of employees and shareholders, as well as to attract and retain talent. These employee share option schemes are becoming more popular in Singapore, especially among startups as well as Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) across multiple industries.

The Lifecycle of an ESOP Scheme

The lifecycle of an ESOP scheme can be broken down into a few events: Offer, Vesting, Exercise, Leaver, and Lapse. An employee will first accept an ESOP option offering, whereby a fixed number of options will be allotted to them. After a certain timeframe, a proportion of the allotted options will vest, meaning the employee can now exercise these options.

To exercise these vested options, the employee will pay the total exercise cost (number of options x exercise price) and receive actual company shares afterward. If they do not exercise these vested options after the expiry date, they will lapse or expire, meaning the participant can no longer exercise these options moving forward. If the employee leaves the company halfway through the ESOP’s lifecycle, in some cases, all their vested and unvested options will lapse completely. This will depend on the particular company’s employee stock option plan rules.

Why Would Companies Adopt an Employee Stock Option Plan (ESOP)?

Companies who want to grow their business whilst mitigating costs usually adopt an ESOP plan. This is driven by two primary reasons:

  • Employee performance is directly linked to company performance and, thus, employee remuneration. Employees can only benefit from their ESOP when the company’s market price is above the exercise price, which means that a company needs to grow to spur the market price of the share.
  • There is no heavy upfront cost to the company. Cost to the company, in this case, is only incurred during the exercise of the Furthermore, the employee will cover the exercise cost, so it’s a win-win for companies looking to grow whilst mitigating costs.

How Do Employees Benefit From an ESOP?

When employees are rewarded with shares of the company, they essentially become part owners of the company. In turn, this directly correlates with employee performance and investment in business performance. The employee’s actions, decisions, and work output are all focused on the greater good of the firm as this is mutually aligned with their own rewards.

What are the Advantages of an ESOP?

An ESOP is more than just a compensation scheme for employees; it is also a way to inspire them. But more than that, this scheme also brings a magnitude of advantages to the organisation.

Below are some of the notable reasons why an ESOP can be a mutually beneficial scheme for everyone.

For the company

  • Attract and retain talent: An ESOP can help the company recruit and retain high-performing employees, especially in a competitive job market like Singapore. It can also reduce employee turnover and increase employee loyalty, as employees are more likely to stay with the company until their options vest and appreciate in value.
  • Motivate and align employees: Employees are incentivised to work harder and smarter with an ESOP, as they have a stake in the company’s success. The scheme can also align the interests of employees and shareholders, considering employees share the same goal of increasing the company’s value.
  • Conserve cash and tax benefits: The company can conserve cash with an ESOP, as it does not require any upfront payment to the employees. The options are not taxable until they are exercised by the employees, which can also provide tax benefits to the company.

For the employees

  • Financial rewards: Employees can enjoy financial rewards from an ESOP as they can profit from the difference between the exercise price and the sale price of the shares. Depending on the company’s performance and dividend policy, an ESOP can also provide dividends and capital gains to the employees.
  • Sense of ownership and recognition: An ESOP can create a sense of ownership and recognition for the employees, as they own a part of the company. The scheme can also foster a sense of fairness and appreciation, with employees being rewarded for their contributions and efforts.

Employee Stock Option Plan (ESOP) Illustration

To provide an illustration, say on 1st Sept 2019, Mei San has accepted her company’s ESOP 2019 Offer for 900 options with an exercise price of S$ 1 per share. These options will vest annually across 3 years in equal proportions. The expiry date of the options will be 10 years from the offer date, which will be 1st Sept 2029.

ESOP 2019 OfferVesting DatesOptions to be vestedUnvested OptionsVested Options
Allotment Day1st Sept 201909000
Vesting 11st Sept 2020300600300
Vesting 21st Sept 2021300300600
Vesting 31st Sept 20223000900

A few points to take note of in the table above:

  • On 1st Sept 2019, 900 options are allotted but remain unvested, which means Mei San cannot exercise these options
  • On 1st Sept 2020, 300 have vested meaning Mei San can exercise them by paying the exercise cost of S$ 300 (300 Options x S$ 1) to acquire 300 shares of the company
  • After 1st Sept 2029, all vested options will lapse, if Mei San has not exercised them prior to this date she will not be able to do so, they have effectively expired
  • If Mei San leaves the company to join another firm halfway through, all vested and unvested options shall expire upon notice of resignation

Other variables to consider:

The illustration above is only one of many examples. Common variables that change include:

  • Inclusion of a performance matrix, where the number of options to be vested will depend on the employee’s work performance
  • More frequent vesting (e.g. Bi-annual), to entice employees with “more” reward
  • Broad-based share option plan where all employees are offered the options plan to encourage ownership thinking across the company
  • Some companies may allow retirees to continue to hold on to their vested options until the expiry date

Depending on your company’s requirements, you will need to understand the implications of these variables, and whether they can help achieve your ultimate objective of your employee stock option plan (ESOP).

What are Factors to Consider Before Implementing an ESOP?

ESOPs can be a powerful way to attract, retain, and motivate employees, but they also come with challenges and risks that must be carefully weighed before implementation. Some of the factors to consider are:

Complexity and Cost

An ESOP is not a simple scheme to set up and manage. It involves a lot of professional advice and expertise on legal, accounting, and valuation matters. It also requires compliance with various rules and regulations and correctly reporting the employees’ ESOP income. The are initial and ongoing costs associated with an ESOP, so the benefits of an ESOP should be evaluated against the expenses and efforts involved.

Equity Dilution and Control

Offering an ESOP means giving away some of the ownership and control of the company to the employees. This setup may have consequences for the existing shareholders, who may see their share and voting power diluted. It may also affect the company’s future plans, such as raising capital, attracting investors, or merging or selling the company. The amount of equity that is comfortable to share with the employees and the rights and restrictions applied to the employee shareholders should be predetermined.

Alignment and Communication

An ESOP can be a great way to align the interests and goals of the employees and the company, but only if the participants understand and value their share options. Management must communicate the purpose, terms, and performance of the ESOP clearly and consistently to their employees. Ultimately, a culture of ownership and engagement among the employees should be created, and they should be rewarded for their contributions to the company’s growth and success.

What are the Tax Implications of an ESOP in Singapore?

Understanding the taxation of ESOPs in Singapore is crucial for both local and foreign employees. In Singapore, employees typically pay taxes on gains from their ESOPs as per the applicable tax slab for individuals, following the guidelines set by the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (IRAS).

For Singaporean employees, the taxation process is straightforward—gains from squaring ESOP positions are treated as regular income and taxed accordingly.

Deemed Exercise Rule for Foreign Employees

For foreign employees in Singapore who are granted ESOPs, the taxation process involves a concept known as the “deemed exercise” rule. According to this rule, employees are considered to have derived gains from unexercised or restricted ESOPs when they cease to work in the country and with the employer who granted the options.

This rule applies to ESOPs and Employee Stock Ownership (ESOW) plans issued on or after 1st Jan 2003.

The notional gain is calculated based on:

  1. Open market price of the shares

Determined on either the grant date of ESOPs or ESOWs or one month before the date when an employee ceases employment, whichever occurs later.

  1. Exercise price of the shares

This is determined based on:

  1. The exercise price of the shares under the unexercised/restricted ESOP; or
  2. The price paid or payable for the shares acquired under the ESOW with vesting/moratorium imposed.

The difference between the open market price and exercise price determines the deemed taxable amount.

Exception for Singapore Residents with Overseas Employment

It’s important to note that if a Singapore resident is granted ESOPs in respect of overseas employment, the gains are not considered income generated in Singapore. Consequently, they are not subject to taxes in Singapore.

Simplify Your ESOP Journey with BoardRoom

ESOP is a powerful tool for rewarding and motivating your employees, as well as aligning their interests with your company’s goals. However, implementing an ESOP can be complex and challenging, requiring careful planning, compliance, and communication.

If you are looking for a professional and reliable partner to help you design, implement, and manage your ESOP, consider BoardRoom as your ESOP provider. BoardRoom is a leading provider of ESOP services in Singapore and across Asia-Pacific, with over 50 years of experience and expertise.

We offer a comprehensive and customised ESOP platform that can help you streamline your ESOP processes, stay compliant with local regulatory requirements, and ensure employee engagement. Our ESOP service also includes a dedicated team of professionals who can assist you with your ESOP needs, from planning and implementation to administration and support.

So, whether you are a listed or unlisted entity, BoardRoom can help you create and administer an ESOP that suits your business objectives. Learn how to set up an ESOP from start to finish, and contact us today!

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Employee Share Plan Amid Covid-19

Why you should be considering an Employee Share Plan amidst Covid-19

Market Outlook

In this article, we will be exploring the implementation an Employee Equity Plan as a viable option for companies looking for solutions to survive the economic downturn & long-term employee retention post Covid-19.  As the spread of the Coronavirus curbs we seem to be facing another crisis, a global economic downturn, one in which we are already seeing companies making job/pay cuts across the board. In Singapore specifically Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is expected to shrink by 7% in 2020.

The news has been dominated by stories of blue-chip companies like HSBC who introduced pay cuts to their executives for the next 6 months. Coworking space giant, WeWork, has laid off 2,400 of its employees. Devastating as these stories are, the actions taken are not new measures for coping with an economic downturn. Similar actions were taken both in the 2008 Financial Crisis and the 2000 Dot-com bubble.

We should ask ourselves, are these actions ideal given we’re now 10+ years on and still adopting the same measures for navigating through an economic downturn?

Covid-19 Pandemic Response Consequences

History tells us that taking these cost-cutting measures to keep businesses afloat during times of financial difficulty comes with severe consequences.

Some of these consequences include:

  • Voluntary resignations as a result of reducing your current workforce. A 1% reduction in your current workforce can result in a voluntary resignation increase of 31% the following year
  • Drops in job satisfaction and performance. When you impose a layoff, survivors will experience a 41% drop in job satisfaction and a 20% drop in job performance
  • When you introduce a pay cut, it will adversely affect job performance

The driving factor for these consequences is that it causes employees to lose control over their employment and any survivors will be stretched to fulfil business requirements. This will only further impact job performance and increase voluntary resignation due to plummeting job satisfaction.

Why an Employee Share Plan Incentive Scheme could be a viable solution

So, if we know the current solutions are not having positive long-term effects on businesses then what can be done? An effective solution could be the implementation of an Employee Share Plan.

We’ve detailed below some options and their benefits to companies:

  1. Introduce long term incentive schemes. To replace short term cash bonus with an employee equity plan or share option scheme, allowing financial liquidity.
  2. Revise current employee share plan. To increase rewards to employees who enhance (or reduce) company’s cost structure and increase operational efficiency during an economic downturn.
  3. Revise current performance metrics. Lower the Total Shareholder Returns (TSR) to an achievable level and increase time frame for performance evaluation.
  4. Bottom-Up approach. To offer long term employee incentive schemes to lower management people.
  5. Adopt a bonus reserve, to fund incentive schemes.
  6. For start-ups who are looking to drive company growth an Employee Share Option Plan would be an effective way to incentivise staff towards a common goal and subsequently drive growth.
  7. For start-ups with an existing Employee Share Option Plan (ESOP) but are looking to offload administrative burden and maximise the workforce on revenue generating initiatives, should outsourcing their ESOP.

The overarching objective for each of these is to incentivise critical business units to perform at a high level in order to weather any economic downturn.

Key to Success for Share Incentive Schemes

Like any challenging situation key to success is being razor sharp in everything you do. In the face of an economic downturn it’s not always every sector that is impacted. Industries like Healthcare Services, Technology Equipment, Software and IT Services are expected to benefit from this current pandemic and will continue to perform well.

Don’t get swept up in the emotion of sensationalised media headlines showcasing devastating job losses and pay cuts globally. Stick to the facts. A recent study conducted by AON has shown that only 10% of companies across Asia have implemented pay cuts amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

If you are in a sector that has been impacted and you need to make changes, don’t default to traditional measures (think job/pay cuts) consider your motivations for the changes you need to make and then evaluate if an employee share plan could be a solution for you.

Some key questions to consider when evaluate if and what type of share plan is suitable for you are:

  • Is your company looking into rewarding employees based on long-term achievements?
  • Are you looking into instilling ownership thinking into your employees?
  • Is your company looking into replacing short term cash rewards, with long term equity rewards?
  • Are you looking into driving different employees into achieving specific outcomes (i.e. TSR, ROE, Client Retention etc.)?

Remember that an employee equity plan scheme is not a short-term win but a long-term business strategy. Surveys conducted by AON have shown that 75% of companies who adopt a long-term incentive scheme will continue to utilise it. Be Open Minded. Realise the potential from your existing workforce and seek solutions to capitalise their performance and secure a business future.

Looking For A Trusted Employee Share Plan Firm In Singapore?

We have designed an all-rounded encompassing solution comprising of an experienced Share Plan team of practitioners and a digital solution to help you manage your strategic initiative.

01 Learn more about EmployeeServe - our Employee Plan Services platform!

Contact us today to find out more about our class-leading solution.

Or you can also learn more about our Employee Stock Option Plan (ESOP) services here.

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What is an Employee Share Plan? (ESAS vs ESPP)

What is an Employee Stock Option Plan (ESOP)?

What is an Employee Share Plan? (ESAS vs ESPP)

Based on reports from a survey conducted by Workday and published on Human Resource Directors, Singapore’s job market currently has an expected turnover rate of 46% per annum, the highest across Asia Pacific. Given this alarming statistic, employment retention is key for companies to grow and maintain a competitive advantage with their best minds running the entity with in-depth, industry specific skills and experiences. To attack this issue effectively, we are seeing a surge in companies adopting an Employee Share Plan (ESP). As a result, not only are employees retained, they are also incentivized to work towards company’s objectives and not of their own.

An Employee Share Plan is essentially a remuneration package, where employees are rewarded with company’s ordinary shares, either by subsidy or free of charge, after certain performance criteria have been fulfilled. Some examples of an Employee Share Plan include Employee Share Award Scheme (ESAS) and Employee Share Purchase Plan (ESPP). In this article we will discuss each in detail to demonstrate their differences.

Employee Share Award Scheme (ESAS)

This plan is usually given to directors or upper level management, where the employee is rewarded with ordinary shares of the company, if they fulfill certain criteria or performance metrics set forth by the company. Initially, the participant (director or senior manager) will be allotted X number of restricted shares. At each vesting period (usually annually), a proportion of the allotted shares will be vested and become unrestricted shares, where the participant can then enjoy the benefits of owning an actual share (i.e. Sell, Voting Right, Dividend Pay-out). The number of shares to be vested and turned into unrestricted shares, will depend on the participant’s performance during their evaluation period.

There are two types of ESAS, namely a Performance Share Plan (PSP) and a Restricted Share Plan (RSP). They can be summarized as follows:


Types of ESASPlan DurationVesting PeriodPerformance MetricParticipantTarget Companies
PSP3-5 YearsEnd of Plan (With Annual Evaluation)– Total Shareholder Return

– Return on Equity

– Return on Sales

– Market Ranking

– Directors

– Non-Executive Directors

– Senior Manager

– Head of Department

– Listed Companies (Including Mainboard and Catalist)
RSP3 YearsAnnually– EBITDA

– Economic Value Added

Case Study 1: Restricted Share Plan (RSP)

Jack Li (Employee of Jack Manufacturing Company) has recently joined the Jack Manufacturing Company Restricted Share Plan (RSP), where he was allotted 1,000,000 shares on 1st April 2020. The RSP plan spans across a 3-year duration with 2 vesting periods. The first vesting date is 2nd April 2022, where 50% of the allotted shares will be vested and become unrestricted shares, based on Mr. Li’s performance from 2nd April 2020 until 1st April 2022. The second vesting date is on 2nd April 2023, where the remaining 50% of the allotted shares will be vested, depending on his performance from 2nd April 2020 till 1st April 2023. His results are summarized as follows:


Vesting Period2nd April 20222nd April 2023
Performance Metrics95%100%
Total Awarded450,000 + 500,00 = 950,000


Upon the first vesting period, Jack only managed to reach 95% of his pre-set target, therefore, the Remuneration Committee (RC) decided to vest only 450,000 shares, of the allotted 500,000 shares for that time period. The remaining 50,000 shares will either be placed back in Jack Manufacturing Company’s treasury account or to be evaluated again towards the second vesting period. For the purpose of this example we will assume that the unvested 50,000 shares are being placed back into Jack Manufacturing Company’s treasury account for simplicity.

Upon the second vesting period, Jack performed well and managed to reach his target, thereby having all 500,000 shares vested accordingly.

In conclusion, Jack has a total of 950,000 Jack Manufacturing Company’s ordinary shares by end of 2nd April 2023, that he can either sell it or keep. If he chooses to keep the shares, he will enjoy voting rights and receive dividend payment as and when due.

Companies who adopt such a plan usually aim to ensure that shorter term (i.e. Annual) goals are being met and satisfied. As opposed to PSP, where longer term goals are the focus, see below for this case study.

Note: As a rule, companies will only allot shares up to 15% of company’s current outstanding ordinary shares at any time, to all its eligible participants, to prevent overpowering of any form.

Case Study 2: Performance Share Plan

Sarah Perry (Employee of Jack Manufacturing Company) recently joined the Jack Manufacturing Company Performance Share Plan (PSP), where she was allotted with 1,000,000 shares on 1st April 2020. On an annual basis, she will be evaluated and will be given a score card. The average of all scores spanning across 3 years, will determine the final number of ordinary shares awarded. It is worth pointing out that the scores she receives in one particular year will not affect her scores of other years.

Her results are summarized as follows:


Evaluation Date (Annually)2nd April 20212nd April 20222nd April 2023
Score Card95%110%65%
Average score across 3 years(95% + 110% + 65%) / 3 = 90%
Total Awarded1,000,000 x 90% = 900,000 Ordinary Shares


In conclusion, Sarah has a total of 900,000 Jack Manufacturing Company’s ordinary shares by the end of 2nd April 2023, that she can either sell or keep.

Note that in some companies, a Claw-back Policy may be introduced. This policy will require the individual to return a certain number (if not, all) of the rewarded ordinary shares, should the performance achieved be deemed unsustainable, for a set number of years post the PSP Plan.

Companies who adopt such plans usually aim to ensure that longer term goals are being materialised, as opposed to RSP, where shorter term goals are the focus. In addition, such policy will incentivise the individual to constantly reflect and improve on the strategies adopted, to ensure sustainable performance for the long haul.

Employee Share Purchase Plan (ESPP)

This plan is offered to all employees of the company. The company will effectively subsidize employees in purchasing ordinary shares of the company.

On a monthly basis, a portion of the participant’s (employee) gross income will be automatically deducted and placed in a separate account (sitting with the company) for a minimum period of one year. By end of the year, the participant either has the option to use those funds to purchase ordinary shares, or have it transferred back to participant’s own account. To incentivize participants to partake in this scheme, companies would offer an advantageous interest rate, for the funds being set aside. Therefore, there is benefit to the employee even if they don’t proceed with purchasing the company’s ordinary shares. There are also other cases where companies will subsidize 25% of the total cost spent by the participants when making the share purchase. Some companies would even use their own funds to purchase x ordinary shares, for every x number of ordinary shares purchased by the participants.


Different types of plans will serve companies of different sizes and nature. But the core purpose remains the same, which is to retain the best minds, drive long term growth and be the market’s next game changer.

Find out more on the key benefits of having an Employee Share Option Plan (ESOP) or learn about the challenges of ESOP implementation and how to conquer them.

Looking For A Trusted Employee Share Plan Firm In Singapore?

We have designed an all-rounded encompassing solution comprising of an experienced Share Plan team of practitioners and a digital solution to help you manage your strategic initiative.

01 Learn more about EmployeeServe - our Employee Plan Services platform!

Contact us today to find out more about our class-leading solution.

Or you can also learn more about our Employee Stock Option Plan (ESOP) services here.

Related Business Insights

Top 5 key benefits of having an Employee Share Option Plan (ESOP)

Top 5 key benefits of having an Employee Share Option Plan (ESOP)

In today’s marketplace, attracting and retaining top talent poses constant challenges. Gone are the days of your traditional 9-5 job and with it your 9-5 employee. Technology has meant we’re now more connected than ever and we are always ‘on’ regardless of whether we’re physically in the office or on holidays. These changes have created a whole new generation of employees that demand more from their organisations and not just in the form of benefits but through an alignment of personal goals and values. This shift in mental state has also created a highly competitive marketplace where retaining top talent is key to a healthy P&L.

Employee Share Plans have long been seen as a way to align your business goals with employee values in addition to driving productivity and aiding retention. In this article we will explore the top 5 benefits of having an Employee Share Plan in place and how it can benefit your business and retain talents within your company.

1. Promotes employee Involvement

The first benefit is perhaps one of the most important but also one of the most misunderstood values of implementing an Employee Share Plan. Simply put, if you align your workforce and your organisation with a common goal it promotes engagement, invites innovation and drives productivity and profitability. All due to ensuring your employees have a sense of ownership. The implementation of an Employee Share Plan ensures that your employees don’t feel like a cog in a machine, but feel they play a fundamental role in business success. That success then becomes tangible when they see the impact to their Employee Share Plan when the company’s stock price improves.

2. Improved recruitment and retention

Companies that adopt an Employee Stock Ownership Plan (“ESOP”) have seen much better retention rates due to the long-term benefits associated with having an ESOP. Employee Stock Ownership Plans provide employees with ownership interest in the company. Typically, the longer they stay with the company the greater the benefits which is why they can be used in the facilitation of succession planning.

ESOPs can often have tax benefits for employees and company alike so are typically implemented as part of a corporate finance strategy. This makes ESOPs a desirable piece of any employee package and as a result aide in retention of employees. In addition to this with the right Employee Stock ownership Plan a business can create desire within top talent, ultimately benefiting your business.

3. Ability to generate liquidity while maintaining control

If you want to generate liquidity for your business but are concerned about losing the operating control that comes along with selling to a third party then an Employee Share Plan might be a viable solution. With an Employee Share plan in place, owners can choose to sell a minority interest, as little as 20 percent, which will generate the liquidity needed.

The benefits associated are not just for the business owner in this scenario, in the case of employees, it enables investment opportunities that might not otherwise have been viable. Many employees do not have the cash to buy shares, a business who implements an Employee Share Plan changes this through the setup of a trust and selling to their employees. Employee’s will then receive shares over time as a retirement benefit.

4. Flexible and tax savings

Employee Share Plans are often used as a part of a corporate finance strategy for their obvious tax deduction benefits. Many regimes around the world today provides a tax-deductible status for company stock contributions, dividends and cash contributions. Their inception was driven by a need to give employees an opportunity to reap rewards from an increase in the value of the company they work for. In doing so, it also encourages loyalty to a company as well as a vested interest in delivering good work which will grow the company.

5. Differentiation from competitors

It is to be expected that a major benefit of having an Employee Share Plan in place long term is the impact on corporate culture. If you have successfully implemented an Employee Share Plan, strategically aligning your employee and shareholder values, you are bound to see dividends in output due to the sense of ownership. All business operations and interactions will be conducted by a team who is engaged and truly cares about the business beyond their personal monthly paycheck.

This shift in mindset will have long term benefits for the company, fundamentally shifting their corporate culture and creating differentiation in the marketplace. Not only will you become a desirable place to work but your productivity, profits and employee engagement will all increase. Over time, this can become a significant competitive advantage.

Looking For A Trusted Employee Share Plan Firm In Singapore?

We have designed an all-rounded encompassing solution comprising of an experienced Share Plan team of practitioners and a digital solution to help you manage your strategic initiative.

01 Learn more about EmployeeServe - our Employee Plan Services platform!

Contact us today to find out more about our class-leading solution.

Or you can also learn more about our Employee Share Option Plan (ESOP) services here.

Related Business Insights

Top 5 challenges with Employee Share Option Plan (ESOP) Implementation and how to conquer them

Top 5 challenges with Employee Share Option Plan (ESOP) Implementation and how to conquer them

Employee Share Option Plans or Employee Stock Ownership Plans (ESOP) are gaining popularity in today’s market. The driving force behind this is a competition for top talent and the need to incentivise and or boost productivity among our workforce, not to mention incentivise and reward staff for staying with your company long term. In addition to this the traditional methods of employing one-off short-term financial rewards have been under scrutiny in the past decade (financial crisis 2008 anyone?) as they have been proven to promote short term & high-risk decision-making behavioral tendencies.

So, Employee Share Plans seems like a win-win for companies and as a result it’s not surprising that companies continue to find alternative avenues under the Employee Engagement framework to hire and retain staff in the longer term and help promote specific behavioral traits in line with company culture through the implementation of an Employee Share Plan.

Whilst we have seen an increased uptake of this emerging trend, many still struggle to optimise and reap the intended benefits of an Employee Share Option Plan program largely due to concerns over several perceived challenges.

#1 - Mobile participants due to the emergence of a Global Workforce

With the world becoming ever more globalized it’s not surprising that our workforce has followed the trend. This globalization of the workforce has posed challenges for companies deploying global Employee Share Option Plans for a variety of reasons. Currently, global participants need to go through tedious administration processes with HR to set up their Central Depository (CDP) account, receive physical offer letters and have near zero visibility on their equity plan information in real time.

As a result, we have seen some global participants go as far as taking leave to travel to the respective equity issuing country to open their share depository accounts with the local exchanges to enable transmission of shares in their name. This process is not only tedious it’s completely impractical and unnecessary with the right partner.

#2 – Manual Administration and Management of Employee Share Option Plans

Believe it or not, in this digital age most companies still manage their Employee Share Option Plans on a spreadsheet. Whilst spreadsheets are known to be robust and “excel” (*pun intended) in capturing static information for operational purposes they have a drastic impact on ease and efficiency of implementation and administration of Employee Share Option Plans.

User expectations are shifting drastically, we all demand “relevant and insightful” access to information “anytime and anywhere” at our convenience. In answer to this, it is imperative to find a dynamic solution to capture, process and report information in real-time to enable participant visibility and reach without creating a manual resource drain.

#3 – Misalignment on Perception of Employee Share Value

Whilst many companies and employees have seen the benefit of adopting an Employee Share Plan, uptake across ASEAN is slower as employees continue to value cash reward as a variable incentive plan.

The current behaviors from a cultural standpoint are more aligned towards short term instant gratification due to a lack of understanding of how equity is a form of reward and recognition for their efforts. The “cash is king” mentality still reigns supreme, and we all know the risks associated with this mindset.

#4 – Lack of Internal Resources & Capability to Manage Strategic Imperative

This is potentially the Achilles heel of successful implementation and administration of Employee Share Option Plans, a mindset that this is a box ticking exercise and no different to periodic transaction activities like payroll.

This can be due to any number of factors, a lack of cultural acceptance within the organisation of equity plans or it’s seen as a cumbersome task. Typical management of Employee Share Option Plans on a spreadsheet can be extremely tedious and, in the more complex cases, a full-time job for 1 full time equivalent. There is a wealth of time-consuming administrative processes that need to happen; the offer management process, vesting management, record keeping of participant information, liaising with participants on plan mechanism, leaver management, regulatory reporting, the list goes on. Many HR Practitioners don’t realise there is an alternative solution to the manual labour currently associated with administrating equity plans.

#5 – Traditional Record Keeping Solution

Most solutions in the marketplace today are designed for functional purposes only, they provide static data and are table driven. This is not surprising given most were designed with the sole aim of record keeping and generating reports for Financial Reporting, Payroll Tax Computation & Reporting.

What is surprising is that there is a global push in nearly every industry sector to focus on user experience. Especially in relation to employee engagement strategies, employees just demand more today, for Share Plans participants need to have real-time information access, share price movement, a one-stop integrated trading platform, and historical information for individual income tax declaration purposes. We live in a digital era and any solution that doesn’t embrace this is considered obsolete very quickly.

Looking For A Trusted Employee Share Plan Firm In Singapore?

We have designed an all-rounded encompassing solution comprising of an experienced Share Plan team of practitioners and a digital solution to help you manage your strategic initiative.

01 Learn more about EmployeeServe - our Employee Plan Services platform!

Contact us today to find out more about our class-leading solution.

Or you can also learn more about our Employee Share Option Plan (ESOP) services here.

Related Business Insights