EO Day stories: Knowles Associates announces move to employee ownership on EO Day 2020

Leading independent transport management and car benefits provider, Knowles Associates, has become employee-owned.

Company founder Colin Knowles has transferred 100 per cent ownership of the business to its 54 staff through an Employee Ownership Trust (EOT). The transition, announced on Employee Ownership Day 2020 (26 June), also included the acquisition of Ensure UK Ltd, providers of fleet insurance mediation and accident management services.

The reason behind the decision to become an EOT was to secure a sustainable future for the business and crucially, to retain independent status which has been a major factor in Knowles Associates’ success.

Providing employees with a stake in the company also aims to further strengthen staff commitment, enhance performance and boost innovation to achieve superior results.

Essex based Knowles Associates was established in 1990 and has grown to become a major provider of fully inclusive fleet management and benefit services to over 115 NHS and public sector organisations across England, Scotland and Wales.

The firm works with all UK leasing and rental companies operating in the public sector and manages a fleet of almost 20,000 cars, vans and commercial vehicles from 35 manufacturers.

Commenting on the transition, Colin Knowles said: “Having considered all options for the future of the business, empowering our employees and directly involving them in the company’s growth was the next logical step in our evolution.

“Establishing an EOT means Knowles Associates can maintain its all-important independence and therefore, its impartiality and strong values, whilst creating the opportunity to pass the company on to the next generation of business talent.

“We will continue to provide exceptional client servicing, which has always been at the heart of what we do, so it’s business as usual in that respect – only with the promise of even better.”

EOTs were introduced by the government in 2014 to encourage more shareholders to set up a corporate structure similar to the John Lewis model. As well as tax incentives for the business, staff can receive up to £3,600 as an annual bonus, tax free.

As part of the EOT process, Knowles Associates has also become a member of the Employee Ownership Association (EOA), the organisation behind Employee Ownership Day which, now in its eight year, celebrates the many UK businesses that have become employee owned.

Deb Oxley OBE, chief executive of the EOA, added: “Knowles Associates joins a growing number of organisations to make their employees the custodians of the business for future generations. These companies tend to excel in engaging employees, who in turn drive performance and innovation, with the opportunity to share in the wealth they create.

“The UK now needs the best possible chance of recovery, with businesses that are resilient and adaptable and contribute to a fairer, more inclusive economy. Employee Ownership has a significant role to play and this is what we will be championing through this year’s EO Day.”

Knowles Associates’ transition to an EOT was supported by Mary Erb, partner at law firm Fieldfisher, accountants and business advisers BDO, and merger and acquisition specialists Benchmark International.