Owners of the Belfast headquartered firm have sold their entire shareholding to an employee ownership trust (EOT).
The three owners of White Ink have established a trust for its 32 employees. The firm, which recently marked its 20th anniversary, will continue to be led by current management.
White Ink becomes the first in Northern Ireland to transfer ownership over to employees and joins the fastest growing form of business ownership in the UK.
According to Architects Journal, over 25% of the UK’s largest 100 Architect practices are now employee owned.
The decision to sell their shares, say the three founders, is a way of preserving the independent spirit of the practice for the foreseeable future whilst ensuring the company continues to operate for the benefit of its employees.
White Ink Architects Director, Claude Maguire, said: “Though we have no plans to step away from White Ink anytime soon, like any business owner we do have to consider what happens when the times comes. Typically, the method of exiting a company like ours would be to sell to the highest bidder.
“We’re very proud of the company we’ve built, and it was important that we protect its legacy whilst acknowledging the contribution of the team to White Ink’s success. We are delighted to be placing the future of the company into the hands our employees.”
White Ink Architects Director, Joan McCoy, said: “We believe that employee ownership heralds the start of a vibrant new chapter in the White Ink story. Our staff now have a mammoth incentive to improve the performance of White Ink which in turn is going to benefit clients, who now have a team of people more connected to their success than ever before.”
According to the Employee Ownership Impact Report, Employee-owned companies have outperformed FTSE All-Share companies by an average of 10% each year since the Employee Ownership Index began in 1992.
White Ink’s turn over in 2020 reached £2,419,097, a 2.7% increase on the previous year despite a drastic drop in business from March to July 2020 due to the lockdowns. The company anticipates they will maintain these figures for this year and are targeting a 10% increase for 2022.
The practice has worked on several high-profile projects across the UK including the £50m RIBA Award Winner Brentford Lock West Phase, and projects for Hilton Hotel and Maldron.
White Ink Architects Director, Sean Tunney says: “Working from home during the pandemic demonstrated even more forcefully that it is possible to be located in Belfast and compete in the UK marketplace, without being geographically limited to Northern Ireland. A key driver for our staff is the excitement of working on large multi-million projects in London and beyond, whilst enjoying all of the benefits of living in Northern Ireland”.
As part of the transition to employee ownership, White Ink has made several appointments to strengthen the management team and further demonstrate its commitment to nurturing talent.
Claire McAteer, Pearse McCann and Shane McCrory step into a management role with considerable experience under their belts, in addition to a combined 13 years of working at White Ink. The three architects represent a trend of high staff retention rates for the practice, which also boasts a higher-than-average gender diversity within the company with a 50-50 female male split.