Outgoing CEO Gill Brennan reflects on the progress that has been made during her five years leading the Irish ProShare Association
When Niall Kavanagh, past chair of IPSA, explained to me what IPSA’s vision and mission was six-and-a-half years ago, I couldn’t understand why more people didn’t know about this business model. It was very much a no brainer to me – give employees a stake in the business they worked in and they would be more productive and happier. Why wasn’t every business doing this?
So when the opportunity arose in 2015 to lead and drive IPSA as CEO, I leapt at the chance to really bring about change and greater awareness of the economic and social benefits of employee share ownership.
There have been many highlights of the past five years. The launch of Employee Share Ownership Day in 2017 and the IPSA Awards are; being called an evangelist by Neil Delamare at our first awards ceremony is another; being contacted by the Department of Finance the following year while evangelising for both IPSA and Ireland Inc. in Rome at the Global Equity Organisation’s (GEO) annual conference.
It was clear that IPSA was now on the map and the door was open to Ministers of Finance and Financial Services, department senior civil servants and decision makers at Revenue. The more we talked to them, the more we were heard, and the weight of our membership gave us credence with the top policy makers.
Another highlight was KEEP – the Key Employee Engagement Programme – and while not everything we wanted initially this did lead to us being the chief delegate at the very first Department of Finance share plan taxation workshop in June 2019.
All I ever wanted as a result of my tenure with IPSA was to get the concept of employee ownership on the radar, and agenda, of the Department of Finance. We have achieved that, and are now have the department and Revenue actively working with IPSA on policy and changes to the KEEP scheme, employee ownership trusts and the SAYE scheme.
Of course, none of this would have been possible without the collective efforts of everyone else at IPSA and I must thank the amazing council members I have worked with over the years. In particular Nigel Derrick, who as IPSA chair from 2016 to 2018, backed every idea I had to enhance and grow IPSA, and IPSA’S current chair Eleanor Cunningham and vice-chair Gemma Jacobsen. These three individuals have been everything a CEO needs in a not-for-profit organisation such as IPSA: supportive, challenging, open, and great fun! I will miss them dearly but so long as people of the calibre of Nigel, Eleanor, Gemma and other IPSA Council members are involved in IPSA, then the future is bright.
I leave IPSA with a sense of sadness but also a greater sense of achievement. It certainly is in a fantastic position to really drive for greater employee share ownership policy with government in the years to come. My work here is done, but I stood in the shoulders of giants, and I certainly hope my successor has as much fun as I did. I am moving on to a new adventure at the Coeliac Society of Ireland, where I hope to be able to enjoy as much success as I was so fortunate to achieve with IPSA.