The Optimizer’s Editor Interviews John Bagdonas, Vice President, Business Development, Global Shares
The Optimizer: John, when I made a list of the most difficult operational and communications problems facing corporate managers theses days, managing a global stock ownership plan – and “Getting one’s message across” to employee investors – ranked at the very top of my list. Tell us about Global Shares, and how you help people cope with the many challenges in this arena.
Bagdonas: For starters, Global Shares is a truly global company. We have employees in Ireland – where our company was founded – and in the UK, Germany, Italy, Shanghai, China, and here in the U.S. Currently, we have over 150 clients, in 19 countries – most recently in Saudi Arabia – on four continents: Europe, Asia and North and South America.
We specialize in “Global” employee share ownership and incentive plan administration and recordkeeping. This is our only business. Our mission is to optimize the benefits of ownership incentive plans – both for companies and for their employees. We do it through excellence in administration – and in communications – your own hot button these days – and in terms of client service.
We are a relatively small company, which means we are adroit, nimble, and with a lot of very smart people – who know what they are doing, and who focus intensively on excellence in performance. And, very important in the custom solutions business, we are not tied to any giant operating platform as are so many of the players in this field. Everyone in the employee stock plan business, as you know, runs for the hills to be sure they don’t get into the customized stock plan market. Global Shares has embraced this market.
While we work with many companies directly, we also work with many of the major brokerage and wealth-management firms, like Morgan Stanley Smith Barney, UBS, Charles Schwab, BoA Merrill Lynch, Raymond James and others. Rather than trying to build something into their own largescale platforms, when a customized solution is needed, they use us, and simply interface the current information onto their own systems every day, so that all of a client’s employee plans will be available to participants from one site. One other thing to know about us, about 25% of our clients are private companies that are not publicly traded at all, but have many of the same challenges as listed companies, and then some unique ones as well.
The Optimizer: Tell us something about your customized communications solutions – and how they help to get what are, as I’m sure you’ll agree, some very complicated kinds of “messages” across to investors in company stock or equivalents.
Bagdonas: All of our clients want what we call our Participant Gateway or portal to be very company specific. Companies like Coty, Ambev, Cargill, and MassMutual for example, want to lead off with something that has the ‘look and feel’ of the company itself. In this way, we build the client’s brand and benefit program with their employees.
Another great thing, our platform lets them create customized messages, via an online bulletin board, to allow a company to lead off with a personal message or video from the Chairman. It also lets them update their messages easily, and quickly – to be very proactive in terms of current developments, and to anticipate, rather than react to the kinds of questions and transactions that are likely to arise during a given period.
The Optimizer: I watched your video, and I was really impressed with the way your statements looked. Many of the plan statements I see these days seem to give rise to more questions than they answer.
Bagdonas: We are very proud of our statements; not just the way they look and how easy they are to read, but with the intuitiveness of the overall presentation. Participants can also model transactions easily, to get an idea of future value and the tax implications of any transactions they may be thinking about.
Another thing we are very proud of, of course, is the ease and efficiency of making transactions. Participants can access the system and authorize transactions via I-Pad, PC, I-Phone or other smart phone, 24x7, in multiple languages, and basically, from anywhere in the world. Speed, flexibility, and efficiency also creates really big value, we think – both for client companies and for plan participants.
The Optimizer: What kind of advice and support can you provide to your corporate clients?
In my own experience – from way back when – things like regulatory and tax issues, and language issues too, were among the biggest hurdles for plan sponsors – and often prevented them from launching programs they really wanted to launch.
Bagdonas: You are right: Way back when, a “global plan” often meant “all the employees, no matter where they work, who are US citizens.” So you have put your finger on another very important set of reasons to work with plan providers who are Global in scope themselves. The overall expense of launching and administering an employee ownership plan can really be prohibitive if you have to work with a small army of individual service providers on a country-by-country basis, or somehow try to manage all the necessary work “in-house.” Today, for example, the risk of not being fully compliant is simply not an option. And frankly, rolling out an employee ownership plan to employees in some countries, but not in all, is very much a non-starter these days as well.
We can also help with employee and plan participant training – and with written and web-based materials in whatever languages a company may need. We can also provide consulting, and staff support as needed during the rollout period, or during heavy operational periods, or with eventdriven developments, like a corporate reorganization.
The Optimizer: Let me say again how much I enjoyed watching your video. I think that well-done video presentations are maybe the very best ways to “get your message across.” And you sure got some powerful endorsements on there from clients. Where can readers go to watch?
Bagdonas: Simply go to our website, www.globalshares.com
Contact: John Bagdonas