Unity Trust Bank move towards employee share ownership

Unity Trust Bank has announced it is moving to employee share ownership and takes a big step foward on the ethical banking scene. 
Unity Trust Bank has announced it is moving to an employee share ownership plan that will secure the future success of the Bank. Staff are set to receive share certificates confirming they own a stake in the organisation, as the bank takes a significant step to reinforce its social values.
Unity Trust Bank is a specialist bank for civil society, social enterprises, Community Interest Companies, councils, and trade unions. It supports customers with socially responsible banking services. The Bank was a forerunner in the early Employee Share Ownership Plan market in the UK during the 1980s and funded a number of schemes from borrowers across a broad spectrum of business. 
The move comes at a time when ethical Banking is shifting in the UK, with the Co-operative Bank's debts being downgraded to junk status. The Co-operative owns 26.7% of Unity Trust Bank.
Richard Wilcox, managing director at Unity Trust Bank, said: “This is an important move in our commitment to Unity’s staff and our recognition of their vital role in building the bank’s continued success. As Graeme Nuttall expressed in his important report for the government last year, employee ownership gives staff a significant and meaningful stake in their organisation. It helps to build successful businesses in which employees enjoy working.
“As a socially responsible bank founded on strong social values, this is a natural step for Unity. It reflects our low staff turnover and our focus on strong customer service rather than sales – a core value both for our existing staff and for those attracted to joining us from the corporate world.”
The plan involves the creation of an Employee Benefit Trust that will acquire and distribute shares to staff. The bank has provided a £50,000 gift to the Employee Benefit Trust to set up the scheme and acquire shares from the current shareholders, which include trade unions and the Co-Operative Bank.
All staff members who have worked at Unity Trust Bank for one year will receive an initial gift of 100 shares. Those who have been at the bank for 10 years will receive a further 100 shares. Through the annual profit sharing scheme staff can also opt to receive shares instead of cash. Trustees of the Employee Benefit Trust will include staff representatives and an independent trustee.
Richard Wilcox continued: “Our people are our best asset. Almost 100 per cent of staff have signed up to the plan, which I believe is a great indicator of their loyalty and commitment to the bank and to making a sustainable contribution to society. We will continue to reinvest our profits into the business to ensure we can support our customers in the future, while also sharing the wealth with our committed workforce and other civil society shareholders.”
The proposed plan is part of wider commitment from the bank to be socially responsible. It has also recently been recognised as a living wage employer, confirming its commitment to paying its employees, particularly those starting out in their careers, consultants and contractors a living wage or more.