‘We transitioned to employee ownership to preserve our way of working into the future for our employees’ | Grafton Banks’ story

Recruitment company Grafton Banks has transitioned to employee ownership to “preserve our way of working into the future for our employees”.

After trading through a challenging period during the pandemic, the business was able to consider succession planning and completed the transition to an Employee Ownership Trust (EOT) in December for the benefit of its employees.

The firm specialises in the provision of accountancy and finance staff to businesses and practices in Sussex, Surrey and Kent, with offices in Hove, Reigate and Maidstone.

Grafton Banks was founded by husband and wife directors Nigel and Julia Jeyes, and Managing Director Alex Gregory 15 years ago, with the trio taking the decision to sell their shares to an EOT to ensure the business “stays in the hands of the people who know it best”.

The firm initially held off on making the news public to ensure they could pay out a first bonus to its new employee owners, but the trio say they are “delighted” to be able to shout about it now.

Julia said: “Grafton Banks Finance has always been a family business – Nigel and I started the business with Alex when our children were very young, we built up the business around our family life.

“We have employed people who have worked for us for many years and have had families of their own, so we pride ourselves on looking after our own and extend this inclusive approach to our clients and candidates. We have always been a local business providing a truly hands-on approach.

“Over the past 15 years we have worked very hard to preserve our integrity and our reputation. There have been some very tough times in the last few years, but in return we have seen a huge amount of loyalty from our employees, as well as our clients and candidates.

“In the early days of the pandemic, we were on a real knife edge as to whether our business would survive. As owners we fought tooth and nail to keep the business going – we regrouped and adapted, begged and borrowed, deferred payments and cut costs.

“We came through, and had a remarkable 2021, which put us back on an even keel and allowed us to look forward to 2022.

“Nigel, Alex and I very strongly felt that having been through the stress and upset of trading in a pandemic together, we wanted to reward together and make everyone feel a real sense of pride, ownership and responsibility for the success of the future of Grafton Banks Finance.

“More than ever it became important to us to preserve our way of working into the future for our employees.”

Culture ‘already mirrored that of the EOT model’

Employee ownership is one of the fastest growing business succession solutions in the UK. The fast pace of growth amongst businesses has taken off with the use of the EOT, introduced by the government in 2014 to encourage long-term employee ownership, and one in every 20 private company sales is now to an EOT, with Grafton Banks joining a network of EOTs in the UK that include Richer Sounds and Go Ape.

The trio stress that, since becoming employee-owned, “nothing has changed, we are business as usual”, because the culture at Grafton Banks had “already mirrored that of the EOT model and that has now been formalised”.

Julia added: “We wanted the business to continue to be in the hands of the people who know it best and those are our employees.

“Every consultant is now a truly intrinsic part of the Grafton Banks business, everyone works together to best support our clients and candidates.

“This is our company – a proper family business. We are doing this because we really love what we do and we don’t want to stop. We wanted to safeguard the legacy of what Grafton Banks Finance has built over the years.”

Having operated as an employee-owned company for more than five months now, Julia says what has been most noticeable is “how much everyone seems to enjoy being part of the business”.

Grafton Banks also continues to grow as a business and recently recruited two new employees to the team.

“It is early days for the EOT, but everyone feels motivated and valued and positive about the future of Grafton Banks Finance, and of their part in that future,” she added.

“We can continue doing our Grafton Banks thing and enjoying being the leading accountancy consultancy in the South-East.”

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