Glasgow architect latest to become staff-owned

A Glasgow-based architectural practice has become employee owned in a move designed to retain staff and help it make the most of opportunities.

From left: Jonathan McQuillan, Stuart Russell, Adam Bell and Stephen Lamb. Picture: Scottish Enterprise 2019

Anderson Bell + Christie has transferred 100 per cent of its shares into an employee ownership trust, held on behalf of its 38-strong team.

The move is seen as helping the firm to retain its existing talent and make its proposition more attractive to new staff, with the team directly benefiting from its future success.

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The firm also said it will be better placed to “capitalise on opportunities” going forward.

It was first alerted to this kind of staff-owned model after attending a presentation by Co-operative Development Scotland (CDS) – an arm of Scottish Enterprise that promotes collaborative and employee ownership.

CDS reports that the number of Scottish businesses to have become employee owned has trebled over the past five years.

Anderson Bell + Christie, which operates across education, healthcare, housing, recreation, sports and culture, with many public sector projects, was established in the early 1990s.

It began as a private partnership between Karen Anderson and David Christie, who were later joined by Adam Bell, Bruce Brebner and Stephen Lamb. Following a period of planned transition, Bell and Lamb formed a new partnership in 2012.

Jonathan McQuillan, an Anderson Bell + Christie director along with Bell, Lamb and Stuart Russell, said: “We’re delighted to have successfully made the move to employee ownership and are extremely appreciative of all the professional advice and guidance we’ve received to help us switch to this business model.

“We feel this ownership model is compatible with our practice’s ethos and the values we’re committed to of promoting equality, wellbeing and innovation, so we’re excited for our future.

“Enabling us to continue building on the success the firm has achieved to date, employee ownership will also open up new and different avenues for us.

“We’ll be in a stronger position to capitalise on opportunities to realise our vision for the company.

“The fact that staff will now benefit directly from the business’s performance is a great asset.”

The practice received guidance from Employee Ownership Associates and Co-Ownership Solutions on the transfer of control of the business.

Blake Morgan and Lindsays provided legal support, while Robb Ferguson Accountants supplied financial services.

Sarah Deas, director at CDS, said it has joined “the growing number of architectural firms across the UK which are now employee-owned – it’s great to see this practice joining the pioneers in the sector”.

There are around 110 employee-owned companies operating in Scotland, with roughly 7,500 employee-owners generating a combined turnover of around £950 million.

Anderson Bell + Christie joins the likes of Glasgow brewer West, Shetland-headquartered consultancy ESPL Regulatory Consulting, and Edinburgh-based IT business Quorum Network Resources that have also transitioned to employee ownership this year.