Computershare's own Robyn Shutak offers you direct guidance from our advisory services practice on recent industry developments, best practices, and more. In this issue, we cover the following topics:
Update on financial well-being benefits
I’m hearing a lot about workplace financial well-being benefits growing in popularity and am noticing that equity compensation has become a part of this offering. This is a welcome change as it is very clear that our participants want more education and financial guidance about the equity compensation programs they receive. Have you identified this as a trend that we should consider for long-term business planning purposes?
We discussed a similar topic in a past issue of this newsletter, which you can find here. Since that time (a little over a year ago), the financial wellness topic and equity compensation have continued to dominate the share plans industry. As employers recognize the unique opportunity they have as a trusted source of financial information and because of their direct access to employees, more companies are bringing financial well-being programs to the workplace to help their employees succeed in today’s global economy. The fact is, financial fitness affects the bottom line—companies suffer when employees lack an understanding of their financial circumstances and how to effectively manage their finances. With the right type of support and early and ongoing education around the effect of investing, employees will be better prepared for larger financial decisions.
To give you a better picture of the current landscape and the direction the industry is heading, you might be interested in our recently released Financial Well-Being Study, published in partnership with WorldatWork, the Total Rewards Association, which shows that 70% of companies currently offer financial well-being benefits and more than half of them intend to expand these offerings in 2020. This same study also reveals that 77% of compaies are promoting existing financial well-being programs, 59% are investing more time in financial well-being, 35% are increasing their investment in financial well-being programs and another 49% began offering new financial well-being programs to employees in the last two years. All signs indicate that financial well-being in the workplace is a trend that has staying power.
Want to know more about the progressive action’s employers are taking to address the financial well-being needs and expectations of their workforce and learn more about the key findings from our recent Financial Well-Being Survey? Join us at GEO’s 21st Annual Conference in Nashville, TN this April for a discussion lead by Computershare, Fit for the Future: Financial Well-being Programs & Practices Survey Findings.
ESPP program administration
Can you briefly describe some of the options we have for the administration of a new ESPP program? By way of background, I’m a department of one who will be responsible for managing this new global plan for more than 1,000 employees, including participants located in two or three countries.
Some companies choose to handle ESPP administration functions internally and others outsource them. Whether you decide to administer your program internally or use a fully outsourced service provider, there are costs to setting up the infrastructure to support the plan, e.g., the payroll department needs to have certain functionality in place to operate / manage the plan. Given the size and scope of your plan, you will likely need a qualified administrator to handle all aspects of your program, not just the basic recordkeeping. With the right support, the plan should take up a small portion of your resources once it is implemented.
Keep in mind that the use of technology in ESPP administration will almost certainly contain administrative costs. With the right technology platform, employees can use online services and SMS text to learn about, elect to enroll in the plan and get help with the program. Deploying technology that allows for employee self-service will dramatically reduce the cost of enrolling an employee in benefits and could alleviate costs in hiring additional staff to manage the plan.
Computershare can help arrange a solution scaled to your needs and those of your employees. For more information visit us at computershare.com/employeeplans or contact us to speak to one of our equity plan experts.
Growing use of ESG metrics
Designing an incentive plan with ESG metrics seems to be a hot topic. I’m interested in understanding if this is true and what companies are doing to this end?
According to a recent Mercer survey, more companies are designing incentive plans for executives with environmental, social and governance (ESG) initiatives in mind. Mercer’s survey, which was conducted last May with a total of 135 public, private and not-for-profit companies from the United States and Canada participating in it, found that 51% of companies are either using or considering using ESG metrics when designing their executive compensation packages to hold leadership accountable for the delivery of sustainable business goals. Among respondents using ESG metrics, the metrics comprise approximately 5% of all incentive plan metrics, but usually apply beyond senior executives to all incentive plan participants.
Data needed to complete proxy disclosures
Help! I’m new to the year-end reporting process and could use a little primer on how to support the many and frequent requests I am getting from my legal and finance departments for proxy data related to our share plans.
As you are quickly finding out, equity compensation data is a critical part of the disclosures provided in the proxy statement. The good news is that most stock plan providers have specific reports that are designed to help companies complete their proxy tables. If you aren’t familiar with these reports, ask your service provider for help as this will save you hours and avoid compiling data from multiple sources. Computershare clients can work with their relationship/account managers to review the suite of reports available for completing your proxy tables.
Understanding more about proxy reporting as it relates to stock plans and the information you are responsible for providing for the equity compensation disclosures is a very important part of your job. We always recommend understanding the context in which the data you provide will appear before handing over system-generated numbers or reports to your legal or financial reporting teams. For additional knowledge and learning on proxy reporting, visit The Certified Equity Professional Institute (CEPI) and the National Association of Stock Plan Professionals (NASPP).
Determining ESPP eligibility globally
Do most companies offer their ESPP in all countries they do business or do they base eligibility on how many employees are in each country?
Companies do not always offer ESPP in every country they do business in. There is usually a cut-off point where it is justifiable to not offer the plan based on the small number of eligible employees or the extraordinary amount of due diligence and compliance where the cost far exceeds the benefit. Our recommendation to determine eligibility in each country is to analyze the demographics of your non‐US employees, such as:
- Country of eligible employees
- Number and level of employees in each country
- Average salary by country
- Anticipated employee growth by country (e.g., the Company is building a new facility in a country)
- Anticipated employee attrition by country (e.g., the Company plans to sell a portion of the business in a country)
- Employee perception of the “value” of equity compensation
- Company culture
If you are looking to expand your knowledge and experience on global ESPP programs or you are just looking to get some related fresh ideas, we have what you need! Computershare is proud to host its 5th ESPP Day, the industry’s only one day conference that provides comprehensive education on all aspects of ESPP’s, on May 7th in Costa Mesa, CA in partnership with Baker McKenzie.
Planning for an economic slowdown
News about planning for an economic slowdown is increasingly showing up on my desk. While I realize that it’s difficult to say whether a slowdown is imminent, I can’t help but think that now is a good time start planning for one. Do you have any quick tips and/or recommendations to this end for our equity compensation programs?
Recession-proofing your equity compensation programs is just like hurricane-proofing your home—it’s never too soon to do so! To ensure your programs are ready to weather any storm, I’ve provided a few suggested planning actions you might consider now to prepare.
- Consider how a drop in stock price would affect the share reserves under your equity plans and think about getting shareholder approval of a share reserve increase sooner rather than later.
- Consider changing equity grants that are denominated in shares to dollars.
- Set performance metrics with a view toward appropriate achievability in a variable economy to minimize the use of discretion later.
- Cap payouts under performance-based plans to alleviate unintended consequences, such as shareholder reaction to a payment substantially above target during a financial downturn.
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