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4 min read

Auto Trader: fuelling progress with shares

Auto Trader: fuelling progress with shares

79% of the FTSE 100 have share schemes and that’s no coincidence!

To find out more about the rewards for large companies, we spoke to Claire Baty, Company Secretary and Alison Ross, Chief People & Operations Director, both of The Auto Trader Group.

Sharing phenomenal success

Auto Trader is the UK's biggest digital automotive marketplace and draws 70 million visitors per month to its showcase of vehicle sales.

It’s common for larger companies like these to struggle with cross-team cohesion, but Auto Trader boasts a “super strong” culture evidenced by their ability to attract and retain top talent.

On the subject of Auto Trader’s ground-breaking employee share scheme, Ross stated that, “this is very much for us about making sure that people feel like they're sharing in the phenomenal success of the company. Obviously, we are nothing without our people.

“People work incredibly hard and they give everything to the business. So it's super important for us to be able to feel like we're able to share in everything that we're achieving. Beyond that, of course, we hope that sharing our success helps retention and that it gets people thinking about what it means to be an owner.

“It just takes people a little bit outside of what they do in their day-to-day job and gets them more invested in our strategy. We think that's probably been a key driver.”


The birth of 'One Auto Trader'

Baty told us that Auto Trader has had a share scheme since 2015, “we started off with a free share award where we gave all employees an amount of shares when we floated and that was really because we wanted to allow everyone to share in the success of the IPO.”

“We then launched the Save as You Earn scheme a year later, and we've done that every year since, and that's obviously a tax-efficient scheme. So it's good from that perspective. 

“Then last year we decided to launch an all-employee share award, which is a scheme we've designed ourselves. It's totally innovative. We give employees a percentage of their salary (on top of their salary) in shares each year! These shares will be released over three years, as long as the employee stays working with the business.

“We've entirely designed this scheme ourselves, so it's not tax efficient. But we felt that the benefits of having a scheme outweighed that. We were able to design a scheme that had no performance conditions for employees other than just remaining with the business over a three-year period. So people get their shares earlier, rather than having to wait - in some cases with the government-backed schemes, you have to wait up to five years before you get your shares.

“So we felt that was important. and went our own way on that.”

Driving success across the company

Ross explained that the newest scheme was, “launched it at one of our all-employee conferences and it has gone down brilliantly. It was very much a surprise, people didn't see it coming!

“People just feel super excited to be even more of a part of Auto Trader. I mean, clearly, there's the reward element - people can, you know, see forward into the future and think about that new kitchen or whatever it might be.

“But really, I think mainly it is just the pleasure of being invested in the company, Auto Trader.

“It does feel like the cherry on top for us and is very consistent with our culture. One Auto Trader is a very important concept to us. It's about treating everybody the same. It's about not having a hierarchy and about making sure that everybody shares in our success. And our people really feel that.”

Auto Trader's advice

Ross finishes by saying that, in another company’s shoes, she “would say, absolutely take the plunge. In the environment we're in now where top talent can go anywhere, you really do need to be able to differentiate yourself.

“And the way to do that is through your culture. I think the best way to think about share schemes is not necessarily just about the financial reward, but what it means for your culture and how you can drive that sense of purpose and how great it is to work for a company and build a career for the long term.”

Marking National Share Scheme Day

Ross said that, “the way we'll be marking National Share Scheme Day is to make sure our colleagues understand the scheme. It is a new scheme for us and there are some new concepts [to understand], for instance, how it might affect your tax.

“So we'll be using the special day as a lever to do more education, run some workshops and make sure people truly understand the benefits of the scheme.”

Celebrating Manchester 'The City of Sharing 2024'

Ross confirmed that, “Auto Trader has 800 of our people based in the office in Manchester. We do very much think of ourselves as a Manchester company. That is our head office, and that is our cultural base.

“And being part of Manchester and the culture of Manchester is very important to us. There is a saying, ‘Manchester, we do things differently here’ and it is actually true in a business context. It is a highly collaborative city. You can really feel the roots of the co-op movement.

“I think generally, it's a working city. and we do feel like we're just a little bit more ethical or a little bit more collaborative. We do all get on with each other. We've got another phrase, which is ‘we're big enough, but we're small enough’. We're big enough to have a very big, thriving tech ecosystem now, but we're small enough that we still know each other, and we kind of hold everybody to account. So businesses are forever getting together, thinking about their common problems and how they might be solved. It really is a city that shares.

“We are absolutely committed to Manchester and always want to do the right thing for the city.”

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