Tim Houstoun, head of Global Shares – which has just been acquired by the biggest bank in the US for a whopping €665m – insists he wouldn’t get the job if he went for it today!
WHEN Tim Houstoun joined Global Shares in Clonakilty it was to cover a staff member on maternity leave, for two months.
At least that’s what he thought. He was semi-retired at the time and didn’t particularly want a job, especially one as a financial director. But as it was for such a short period of time, and it was a friend who was asking, he agreed.
That was in 2010 when the company in Clonakilty Technology Park had just 20 employees and in Tim’s own words was ‘under-capitalised and bootstrapped.’
A lot has happened in the intervening 12 years.
Global Shares is now one of the top three global providers of employee share management products, and was recently acquired by America’s largest bank, JP Morgan Chase, for €665m.
Among those who must be glad he stuck around are the shareholders, comprising staff, along with private shareholders/investors and a private equity firm, who he said had done ‘substantially well’ from the deal.
‘A lot made a sum of seven figures, some eight,’ he said.
Empowering staff is a big part of the ethos of Global Shares.
‘If you want staff to behave like owners, you have to make them owners,’ he said.
‘This is the business we’re in and we have to practise what we preach.’
With him at the helm, the workforce has expanded from 300 pre-Covid, to a current staff of 600, with 17 offices across Europe, the Middle East and Africa, North America and Asia Pacific.
Headquarters is still in Clonakilty where 150 staff work. The Cork city office has doubled in size with plans to grow its team of 70.
Offices are also opening in Leeds, Bristol and Calgary in Canada.
Tim’s motivation throughout was simply to see the transformation through.
When he first joined the company the initial focus was on pivoting how they did things, writing the best software on the market and getting industry regulation.
They both happened in 2015 which is what he regards as the real beginning of the Global Shares story, even though it was founded in 2005.
‘Once I started the journey and the turnaround, I was committed and I had to see it through,’ he said.
‘I couldn’t leave it half done as I respected the employees and the stakeholders. I had to make a success of it, and I think we’ve now found a good home in the largest bank in the US.
‘It’s a dream come true for the team, and it’s a dream come true for me too,’ he said.
The 58-year-old revealed that the deal with JP Morgan Chase was signed and sealed in just seven weeks, as it was clear they were a perfect match for each other.
‘They’re not in this market and they needed to be, so it was a really good fit.
‘It was a “plug-n-play” acquisition,’ he said.
American billionaire and head of JP Morgan Chase, Jamie Dimon, visited the HQ in Clonakilty in recent weeks.
After meeting staff in the office in the Technology Park for an ‘ask me anything’ Q&A session, he was hosted at a whiskey tasting in Clonakilty Distillery and a meal in Inchydoney Lodge and Spa.
Tim said Jamie was ‘exceedingly impressed with the team and West Cork.’
‘It would be hard not to be when he saw places as stunning as Inchydoney.’
Tim said he’ll remain as the ceo of Global Shares for the next few years at least.
‘No one can get rid of me that easily!’ he joked.
‘Seriously, we have a long way to go yet.
‘There are huge expansion plans for the US, and to develop our team.
‘We need to repay the confidence that JP Morgan Chase put in us.’
Recruitment will also continue at their Irish offices, Tim says, and on offer will be ‘high quality’ positions across a wide spectrum including IT, production, marketing sales and brokerage.
Lack of accommodation doesn’t present a challenge for growing its workforce, but rather the availability of tech staff.
‘There’s a limited number in Ireland where we have Apple, Google and Amazon and that does make it more difficult,’ he said.
Having said that, the company recorded its best sales ever in 2020, and despite all the challenges of the pandemic, they topped it again in 2021.
Despite all this, a modest Tim insists that if he went for the job today he wouldn’t get it!
‘But I always knew what we were creating was very special.
‘I never doubted that.’