Name: Kindred Group
Industry: Online gambling services
‘Individuals United’ – Kindred and their revolutionary All Employee Stock Plan
When a company introduces a new employee stock plan and within a few months it’s won awards, you know they’ve done something right.
“We are really delighted about the external recognition as we can show our employees that it’s not just hot air or rhetoric when we’re talking about how great the scheme is, ”states Nick Lawry, Director of Reward, Kindred Group.
Recognized as an ESOP Star 2021 for their innovative ‘Two Year, All Employee Stock Plan (AESP)’ Kindred also accepted the award for the ‘Most Innovative and Creative Plan Design’ at the 2022 Global Equity Organization (GEO) awards and were shortlisted at the ProShare Annual Awards 2021. These have helped boost the company’s employer-brand profile which, Nick acknowledges, people might not have been familiar with.
A Truly International Stock Plan
An online gambling company made up of 9 brands, the most well-known of which are probably 32Red and UNIBET, Kindred Group plc currently have over 2,000 employees spread across 17 different locations, mainly in Europe but also in Australia, and across North America, where the recent re-regulation of online gambling has really opened up a lot of prospective and sustainable new markets.
Allowing such a global workforce to share in the success of the company was a critical requirement for Kindred when they chose Global Shares to develop their international stock plan.
Equality In Equity
Having previously had a more traditional offering in place with another provider Kindred were looking to do something truly innovative and special when they approached Global Shares – the solution a 2-year vesting period where every permanent employee, outside of the executive management team, regardless of location, gets the same amount.
“The average tenure in the business is around 3.5 years, which aligns with the overall tech average, so it wasn’t really fit for purpose from that perspective to retain people,” says Nick of the decision to move away from the traditional 3+ year vesting period typically seen with LTIP programs. “I’m not aware of another company that does a 24-month vesting cycle. But we also grant awards every year as well and in doing so, avoid a ‘cliff’ when an LTIP scheme ends and attrition can potentially spike. Having annual awards should mean that there’s always some skin in the game for employees.”
Guided By Experts
Being a global company who wanted to ensure all employees worldwide got the exact same reward, regardless of location, when it came to regulatory and legal requirements, Kindred found the assistance from Global Shares’ expert staff to be particularly useful.
“We used your team to help us navigate our way through all the different complications and legislation in each country that we offer this particular scheme,” Nick says, noting that not all other share plan providers offer such expertise as part of their services. “It’s worth pointing out that it’s a bit of a minefield and very complicated, with different tax treatments which need to be considered.”
“When you’re looking at a scheme like this with, currently 17 different locations, you either resource it in-house or you have to consult with multiple third parties in those different locations in order to get the correct legal and tax advice. It’s beneficial actually having the service that you offer to help with the implementation of this.
Communicating With Clarity
The stock plan was launched in 2021 as an essential pillar of the company’s new long-term business strategy, and Kindred found the input from Global Shares around communicating the plan to be especially good.
“You have to remind people about it, and you have to do it on a regular basis rather than a ‘once-and-done’ exercise,” Nick says. “It was part of the initial discussions with Britt Kronqvist’s team when we were implementing the new scheme and changing providers. A big driver for us was improving the engagement around the share plan for employees, and focusing on using different means of communication. This involved not only making better use of technology such as having the platform available on our intranet home page on a single sign-on basis so that employees can instantly access it, but also working with the communications team in developing material covering a comprehensive range of topics and FAQs, including the tax issues in each location, stuff that is less sexy but still really important.”
The New Normal
Kindred have embraced the fact that there is a new normal, introducing trust-based policies and hybrid working, not prescribing to staff how, when and where they should work but giving them the autonomy to decide how effectively and best to do that themselves. It was essential so that their employee share plan reflect this attitude.
“Having a stock scheme like this as well, where we’re saying to people, if you think of yourselves as owners of the business that accountability sits on you as an employee. We trust you to go ahead and do what you need to do, without us breathing down your neck, or micromanaging you or saying you need to be in the office 9 to 5,” Nick explains. “In terms of the stock scheme and when we pay our dividends, we want employees to retain shares and be invested in the business going forward.”
A Sustainable Approach
While Kindred may be involved in the gambling industry, they certainly weren’t leaving anything up to chance when it came to their All-Employee Stock Plan (AESP), which launched so successfully in the midst of a global pandemic.
Boosting employee engagement by allowing staff to share equally in the fortunes of the company ties into their overall business strategy and it really is no surprise that a long-term, sustainable approach like this has already been so celebrated.
We are honored to have worked with Kindred to achieve this award-winning success.