THE first company in Scotland to be employee-owned from its creation, Accord Energy Solutions, is making a determined effort to keep all their staff – despite the downturn in the oil industry.

Accredited Living Wage employer Accord was established in 2010 and currently has more than 30 employees and eight associate consultants. Right from the start, founding directors James Arthur, Phil Stockton and Alan Spence believed that employee-ownership would enable the company to attract and retain the best people.

“Employee ownership is now at the heart of everything we do and colours every aspect of the way the company functions,” said Spence. “The company has no external shareholders and all profits are currently distributed between employees through bonuses, free and matching SIP shares and the acquisition of shares for the employee ownership-trust.

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“Given the above, becoming an Accredited Living Wage employer was not a difficult decision to make. For Accord, getting there was relatively easy but we believe it was important to add our support to this initiative and to encourage other employers to follow suit. Most employers recognise that people are key to the success of any company – surely it’s time that all companies reflected this when deciding how much people should be paid.”

Accord Energy Solutions provides specialist technical support to the international oil and gas industry. Their engineers, scientists and business analysts help clients to track their hydrocarbons from the point they leave the reservoir to their final destination.

“Our knowledge and understanding of measurement, chemical analysis and the behaviour of oil and gas as they pass through the platforms and pipelines, terminals and tankers to their eventual point of sale ensures that clients receive the full value of their oil and gas,” said Spence.

Most of Accord’s work is carried out for UK-based operators such as BP, Shell, Apache, Maersk and Premier Oil.

Clients in Europe account for the rest, other than occasional projects further afield in places as diverse as Ghana, Namibia, and Azerbaijan. Average turnover for the past three years was £5.5 million per year.

In contrast to other companies in the sector, Accord has not adopted the short-term approach to the current downturn in the oil and gas industry that has seen many companies respond to the influence of external shareholders by paying off employees in an attempt to maintain dividends.

“Our employees are the business and we want to retain them through the downturn so we can emerge from it in the best possible shape to meet our clients’ requirements,” said Spence.

“We benefit from the input of all our employee shareholders and formally share information with employees at monthly meetings. This includes all operational, commercial and financial information. Employees therefore have a detailed understanding of every aspect of company operation.”

The company operates a very lean and flat organisation and the salary structure reflects this with a multiplier of less than five between the highest and lowest paid employees, including founders.

“We believe all employees should be treated fairly and deserve to be rewarded for their efforts through company ownership, profits distribution, an attractive benefits package and competitive pay,” said Spence.

Accord’s board of directors comprises the three founder directors and two employee directors elected by the employees. The actions of the board and operation of the company is monitored by trustees of the employee ownership trust (EOT) which provides a governance role on behalf of the company owners. The trustees include one founder, two employees elected by the employees and two external trustees.

Ownership is currently – founder employees 65 per cent, EOT (on behalf of employees) 15 per cent, non-founder employees 20 per cent (direct ownership through an HMRC approved share ownership plan (SIP)). Accord’s intention is that the EOT will eventually own 51 per cent of the company, non-founder employees 20 per cent (through the SIP) and founder employees 29 per cent and is progressing steadily toward this. All employees own shares.