Building Design Partnership (BDP) expects to raise about £1 million in capital over three years after last week offering shares to all its 677 permanent staff at £2 apiece.
The 40-year-old partnership's offer of non-voting shares breaks the mould of private company ownership belonging solely to directors and comes two weeks after the practice won first place in the AJ 100 survey.
BDP finance director John Parker believes BDP to be one of the first companies to take up the government's All Employee Share Ownership Plan (AESOP) launched by chancellor Gordon Brown in his March 2000 Budget. But he denied that the move was a precursor to flotation.
Ofthe 4,500 practices registered with the RIBA, just 15 are public limited companies. Fifteen of the institute's practices are unlimited companies and 901 (including BPD) are limited companies.
'Within three years we hope to see 25 per cent of shares owned by non-company directors, ' Parker said. 'We see the share issue as part of wider moves to align our people's motivation with the success of the group and its customers.'
AESOP allows staff to buy shares out of their monthly salary deductions with tax relief. However, Parker said staff would be required to keep shares for five years to be eligible for income and national insurance relief.
Parker said the Inland Revenue had accepted BDP's share value as a valid market price. Onefifth of staff have opted to take up the offer.