Employee share purchase plans weathering the pandemic despite market dips

Employee share purchase plans are enduring the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, despite dips in stock prices for some sectors, says Scott Anderson, regional vice-president of employee benefits at Hub International Ltd.

“There are companies in the transportation and entertainment industries that have taken major hits, but for the most part they’re doing their [employee share purchase plans] as usual,” he says. “I haven’t heard of any that stopped their programs.”

He says the recent fluctuations may be alarming but aren’t likely to influence plan sponsors offering this perk to employees in the long term. The current situation reminds Anderson of  2001, when plan sponsors momentarily cooled to the benefit in the wake of the the Enron Corp. scandal.

Read: Back to basics on employee share purchase plans

“We start having the same memories as we’ve had in the past. Any time there’s a crisis, people feel the sting and they pull their hand out of the fire. But when the fire gets less hot, they put their hand right back in it. It’s going through the same lifecycle right now.”

However, Anderson says the temporary effects of the 2008/09 financial crisis led many employees to consider portfolio diversification. “The greatest risk for investors is putting 100 per cent of their investment net worth into the company they work for.”

And as stock prices stabilize, the employee retention advantages of employee share purchase plans will once again become apparent. “Employees get access to stocks they may not have otherwise. The employer is also doing a match, so for lack of a better term, you’re getting a return the day the contribution was made on your behalf.”

Read: The pros and cons of employee share purchase plans