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why bpr chose employee ownership

Wide team on balcony june 2018

With the recent publication of The Employee Ownership Association's 'Ownership Dividend', this Insight explains why adopting the employee ownership model was such a good fit for bpr and how becoming employee-owned has improved the way we are doing business.

The Ownership Dividend - #OwnershipDividend
In July 2017, Lizzie Hinton (formerly Dodwell), contributed to the Ownership Effect Inquiry as a panellist for the debate: The role of employee ownership in supporting business succession planning.  An employee at bpr since 2013 and the first employee representative of bpr trustees, Lizzie was able to give an account of our journey into becoming an employee owned practice.  As a millenial, she effectively communicated the challenges facing the next generation - from student loans to rising housing costs and how employee ownership removes the financial barrier for her generation's future potential as business owners.

Further information on The Ownership Effect hearing can be found at

The 27th June 2018 saw the release of the Ownership Dividend - the results of the Ownership Effect Inquiry, which sets out three clear messages for how the Ownership Dividend can deliver a more productive and inclusive economy:

1. Improving UK productivity
2. Resilient regional economies
3. More engaged employees

We at bpr architects, feel honoured to have contributed to the Ownership Effect Inquiry and welcome the EOA's Ownership Dividend report in which it states that - 'the panel's conclusion is clear: there is a significant dividend to be obtained by growing employee ownership in our economy.'
You can read the full report here:

In January 2018, Paul Beaty-Pownall, Managing Director of bpr architects, was consulted by the Architects' Journal regarding employee ownership in an article entitled: Power to the people: the rise of the employee owned practice, in which he expanded on this theme.  'I was always a bit uncomfortable that those who felt wealthy enough would be able to buy into the business.  It didn't convince me that the right people would end up running the business.'
View the full article: []

Values and culture
There are many ways to structure employee owned companies.  At bpr architects we have 100% of the company's shares held in trust.  This has supported our strong ethical values being upheld and created a better balance between our profits and our people.  The culture within the practice is open and honest and there is more accountability for directors to other parties in the business.

Our approach is focused on the long-term aspirations of the practice and encourages innovation.  Our engaged and committed staff drive the focus on improving quality  and on a daily basis, problems are shared and overcome together improving both the creativity and the efficiency of our work. 

We value employee contribution and collaboration internally and welcome the opportunity to use these attributes externally.  We like to share our knowledge on a wider stage to benefit others from our learning.  We are always happy to talk to other practices who are considering the move into employee ownership and to share our story.

As we celebrate Employee Ownership Day on 29th June 2018, we reflect on these themes and how we can contribute better to this dividend as an employee-owned practice.

Wide team with atlas

bpr - a brief company history

In 1974, bpr architects was formed into a partnership called Beaty-Pownall and Roberts with three directors:  Inger Beaty-Pownall and Richard Beaty-Pownall and Nigel Roberts. At this time, the business focussed on small scale, local domestic work, which was enhanced by occasional larger schemes.  In 1985 it became a Limited Company by which time it employed a group of 5 or 6 architects providing a very personal service to all their clients.

In 1987, Graham Wilson joined bpr architects and worked alongside Richard, Inger and Nigel.  In 1996, Richard and Ingers son Paul joined the practice. Together, Graham and Paul then developed plans for how they would take the practice forward and decided to buy the business. The existing partners welcomed this opportunity to pass the business on to the next generation, and assisted them in the purchase of 100% of the shares. The practice was then re-named as BPR Architects Ltd in 1998 and Graham and Paul started to plan the next period of the company’s development.

In 2008 bpr architects set up an HMRI approved EMI scheme to encourage participation in the ownership of the business. Like many other businesses, bpr architects were hit by the recession in 2009 and the share options offered did not generate as much interest as anticipated and the practice reduced in size. In the years that followed the global financial crisis, bpr architects rebuilt and began to grow again.  The directors of the company, began to think further ahead and about succession planning for the business. Aware that staff were not in the position to buy the practice as they had once done, they looked for alternative ways of achieving the transition from one generation to the next.

One way of achieving this was to set up an Employee Benefit Trust to own the company on behalf of the employees, which aligned well with the inherited family values of the practice. On the 6th March 2015, bpr trustees ltd was formed to own the practice on behalf of its employees. The directors sold all their shares to the trust passing ownership for the business onto the staff.  Today, bpr architects ltd is managed by Paul Beaty Pownall and Steve Cowell who report back to bpr trustees annually regarding the practice’s progress. The values established by the original business – Respect, Integrity, Commitment and Support – remain integral to the modern company which exists today. 

Wide bprs eo day 2015

Employee Ownership – A collaborative way of doing business
With the transition into an Employee Owned Practice, many of the attributes of bpr architects' day-to-day management were formalised into a new collaborative arrangement. bpr trustees ltd was set up to ensure that decisions are made in the best interest of the beneficiaries now and in the future. This structure allows all employees to have an active participation in the success of the business. When the business does well, everyone at bpr architect’s benefits. Likewise, the risks of the company are shared amongst all the employees.

bpr trustees ltd has 3 directors at any one time comprising one of the current directors of bpr architects ltd; one of the employees of bpr and one external third-party director who is chosen by the directors of bpr architects ltd. Both the director representative and employee representative roles rotate on a three year basis to allow maximum involvement throughout the company. The employee representative is self-nominated and elected through an anonymous vote by the employees. This provides bpr architects with a forum through which employees can voice their opinions about the management and running of the practice.

With the launch of the employee owned business, bpr architects took the opportunity to re-align it in a way which would further allow all employees to contribute. A system of ‘management groups’ across seven areas of the business has been established, through which all staff contribute to the daily maintenance and progression of the company; from premises matters though to the culture of the practice.

The development of BIM over recent years and expansion in more collaborative ways of working, fits well with our structure and internal processes and is also reflected in our external relationship with clients and project teams. Employee ownership has provided us with the ideal platform for our dynamic and agile group of professionals to develop their careers alongside the business and to respond rapidly to changing environments.

Learn more about the benefits of employee ownership: