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Orms is latest practice to launch employee ownership trust

Orms 1 new oxford st (c) timothy soar 0004 crop
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Orms has become the latest practice to shake up its ownership structure and hand over equity to its staff

The AJ100 firm is transferring a majority stake in the company to an employee-owned trust in a bid to promote a ‘partnership culture’ in the firm.

Orms have adopted a ‘hybrid’ model – where the majority of shares are owned by a trust, with a proportion remaining in the hands of directors.

The employee-ownership structure is becoming increasingly popular with practices in the UK, with Orms joining 15 other UK top 100 firms that have already made the switch from the more traditional, director-ownership model.

Benefits of employee ownership include smoother succession and continuity when practice directors retire as well as a greater stake in the business for employees.

London-based firm Orms, which has 75 members of staff, was previously co-owned by Oliver Richards and John McRae but restructured in 2013 to create a more ’collaborative design process’.

Orms said the move to employee-ownership was the ‘natural’ next step and would bring a range of benefits including raising the company’s profile within the architectural community.

It also hopes that the restructuring will allow staff to have more input on projects and to ensure ‘all voices are heard’ through the establishment of an elected employee council.

The firm’s board of trustees will include McRae, practice collaborator Richard Jones as the board’s chairman and architectural assistant Valerie Tam. The firm’s four directors – Richards, McRae, Richard Keating and Colin McColl – will continue in the day-to-day running of the company.

McRae said: This is a natural evolution of the practice which focuses on a collaborative approach to design, recognises talent at all levels and ensures the practice can continue to evolve.’

The employee-ownership trend was given a boost in 2014 after the then chancellor George Osborne introduced two major tax reforms aimed at easing the conversion process.

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