Meera Mistry: How Ascential’s sharesave scheme encourages employees to save

Business-to-business media company Ascential was publicly listed in March 2016.  From the outset the board was keen to offer employees the opportunity to participate in its plans, and wanted employees to share in the company’s success.

Pile of chocolate coins

We launched a sharesave plan in eight countries in 2016 and 32.65% of employees signed up to participate. Take up in our two biggest locations was 34.45% (in the UK) and 33.56% (in the US).   

Young demographic

Although we had good take up in our first year we knew that we needed to do more to get the attention of those people that didn’t sign up in the first year.

We often hear people say: “I can’t afford to save into a pension, I am trying to save for a deposit on a house”.

We want to help people save for their life goals through the sharesave scheme – a low risk savings plan that gives employees the opportunity to buy shares at a discounted option price after three years of saving a set amount per month. 

The fact that people could access their savings in three years or sooner if they needed to offered the flexibility that pensions lacked.

Communication and education

So given the challenge, we knew we had to do more than just send emails or display posters that go unread and ignored!

We created a communication and education strategy using every channel available:

  • Emails
  • Presentations
  • WebExs
  • Intranet site – including an interactive calculator (tailored to each currency)
  • Video
  • Flyers
  • ‘Town hall’ meetings
  • A section in the CEO’s Business Update
  • Printed brochures and chocolate coins on all desks on invitation day
  • Trained local champions
  • “Grab a slice of the Ascential pie” – serving pie in all our offices helped to start up a conversation

Many of our employees are not well-versed in financial matters – we’re not a financial services company so they have no need to be. 

We saw the sharesave scheme as a great opportunity to engage our entire workforce in the benefits of regular saving: whether to buy a house, pay off debt or just as an easy way to save directly from their salaries.

We were also able to highlight the sharesave scheme’s added benefit of giving employees the chance to buy shares at a discount in the future to make a potential profit. 

We used real-life examples of how people could save small amounts by giving up buying a coffee or lunch every day, for example.  This could quickly add up to £1,000 a year or £3,000 in three years’ time, which could result in a profit if the share price rose over the three-year savings period.

We took the time to emphasise both how low risk the share plan was and the ability to take money out of savings at any point, if needed.  This gave people comfort, and was often more attractive to them than saving into a pension, which is locked away until a time in the future that they cannot even imagine.

Final take-up

Our target was 20% of the eligible population. We had 20.8% take up in 2017 in six countries. In the UK, 53.2% of employees are participating in sharesave from 2016 and 2017, and 37.82% of employees in the US are participating in the US Stock Purchase Plan from 2016 and 2017.

Globally, 46.3% of employees are participating, which is incredible because we only became a publicly-listed company in March 2016 and no savings contracts have matured yet. No one has seen a return on their investment yet.

We’ve signed a considerable proportion of our workforce up to sharesave because our campaign was focussed on education and excitement.

This article was written by Meera Mistry, head of reward at Ascential

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