In Conversation With Incoming EOA Chair Benjamin Morris

by Employee Share Ownership on February 11, 2018

EOA Ben Angela

Join outgoing EOA Chair Angela Perry as she chats with incoming Chair Ben Morris about his experience and passion for employee ownership, his vision for EOA and what he’s most excited about in 2018!

Angela: So tell us a little bit about your personal background?

Ben: I’m Sydney born and bred and had a fairly conventional childhood and family environment. Mum and Dad were very heavily involved in the community…as a kid it often felt like going to ‘another boring function’ when there were many other exciting things to do, but in my adulthood I’ve learned to appreciate the responsibility and satisfaction from getting involved in causes that make a difference.

And how about your professional career?

Ben: I started my career at PwC, originally as a Chartered Accountant, before spending time in their executive remuneration consulting team, which was my first foray into the world of exec pay and employee share ownership. After a brief stint (perhaps best called an experiment!) as a lawyer, I returned to consulting spending some time at Deloitte and Hay Group. 

I’m now in a fairly broad HR role, co-heading HR at Mirvac while still overseeing Performance & Reward and HR Operations.  Reflecting back, my career is quite diverse, but it all seems to come together somehow and I like being able to contribute in the world of HR perhaps with a slightly different perspective.   

Angela: So what are you most passionate about?

Ben: When I first started advising companies on share ownership, my focus was executive share ownership. Because of the nature of my work, my focus was largely on ‘technical design’ around tax, legal, and governance matters. Since then – and perhaps a reflection on my time on the other side of the fence in corporates such as Lendlease and Mirvac – I’ve come to understand the power of employee ownership, specifically the increased performance and employee engagement that can be generated through it.

And through the great work of EOA I’ve heard and read hundreds of stories of the successes of employee ownership whether these be mature listed companies, start-ups or mutuals and cooperates. Employee ownership is such a powerful thing and yet it is underutilised in Australia.  As a community of professionals, we have an opportunity to shape public policy and enhance take up of share ownership in Australia. 

Angela: And how and when did you first get involved in EOA? 

Ben: I was first involved in EOA as an attendee at various events and conferences and then as an indirect contributor to the Experts Panel. I became more aware of the political influence during the period when the policy missteps were made in 2009, although I probably became most interested in EOA once I switched from advisor to corporate and had more first hand experience on the other side of the fence. 

At the time, I was working for Lendlease, who were once the loudest and proudest early adopters and champions of share ownership in Australia, and yet by that point no longer had a the once strong culture of employee share ownership. 

This was a pivotal moment in my ‘employee ownership journey’ where I wondered what could be done to reignite employee share ownership in Australia.

Fast forward and some conversations with you (a true champion of share ownership in Australia!) inspired me to get involved and do my bit to advance the sharing of ideas and public policy progress in respect of employee ownership.

Angela: What is you vision for EOA?

In a nutshell, an organisation for its members and a fierce independent advocate and the ‘go to’ voice of employee ownership in Australia; providing an independent forum for the sharing of knowledge and ideas on employee ownership.

Something incredibly powerful about EOA is our independence – we represent the broadest group of people, we are politically neutral, and we have almost no vested interest (but for promoting and encouraging the benefits of employee share ownership). 

The legacy started by Angela Perry and her predecessors – and the legacy I hope to build on – is for EOA continue to be fierce independent advocates for employee ownership while being an organisation valued by its members.

Angela: And what are you most excited about for 2018?

Ben: We are starting 2018 with some real momentum. In 2017, we laid the foundations with some fantastic initiatives including the work on the EOA Index, renewal of the Experts Panel, positive progress in our relationships with regulators, and relationships with politicians (on all sides!) in Canberra.

2018 is the year where will start to see a lot of that work come to fruition.  It’s early in the year but we are already seeing progress. For example, several large companies have agreed to join EOA (further strengthening our independence and loudening our voice) and tomorrow (13th of Feb) we will be hosting some 50 federal parliamentarians at an event to discuss the power of employee ownership. 

We have also made some changes to how we are organised within EOA to better leverage our wonderful panel of experts and to better understand and deliver on the interests of our members.  It’s going to be another big years of progress for EOA, and we hope many of our members play a part in it.

Angela: Any final thoughts?

I’d like to finish with a vote of thanks to you, Angela. It is without question that EOA only is what it is today thanks to your work as Chair and your wonderful contribution through your political influencing. 

You’ve created a wonderful legacy and, although daunting, it is a legacy I hope to build on.

(It isn’t farewell though, and while Angela is stepping back from her Chairing role, she will very much continue to be involved in influencing policy makers…something she is both passionate about and incredibly successful at).

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