Cashless modes under ESOPs

Nowadays balancing sustainable growth and a pool of talent at the same time in this dynamic business environment has become an era of wondering for the Corporate. Besides cash rewards, it is important for any organisation to make its employees believe that their personal growth is linked to the growth of the organisation. Employee Stock Option Plans /Equity Incentive Plans (commonly referred to as ESOPs) are one of the most important tools to attract, encourage and retain Employees

Ms. Mohini Varshney
Assistant Vice President
One of the basic fundamental for contemplating the idea to roll-out any incentive plan is to ensure the attractiveness of the Plan from the perspective of the Employees. Generally, the Companies opt for one or more modes with some permutation and combination to align it with the needs and objectives of its business with the sole intent to incentivise the valuable asset of their business i.e. Employees for their association and performance.

There are basically two broad divisions of restructuring modes:

  • Stock Options
  • Stock Indexed Plans

Stock Indexed Plans (are also referred as stock based incentive plans) do not involve actual acquisition of shares and thus does not involve dilution of promoters’ stake. These SIPs are the cashless modes available ESOPs. Such SIPs can be structured in any of the following 2 modes:
  1. Stock Appreciation Rights (SARs): SARs are not technically employee stock options, companies often use them in a like manner. SARs provide employees with cash payments equal to the appreciation of the company’s stock over a specified duration. Thus, unlike other options, SARs provide employees with equity upside without exposure to any downside.
  2. Phantom StocksPhantom stock is a form of long-term deferred compensation using the Company shares as the measuring device for calculating the value of the deferred compensation. It simulates the Company shares in everything except that does not represent true ownership. The Company simply credits these phantom shares on its books and as the value of the company shares rises and falls, so does the value of the phantom stock.
Hence, SARs/Phantom Stocks are the two cashless modes available under ESOPs, under which the employees are allotted notional shares/units at a pre-determined price. On completion of vesting conditions, the employee is paid cash equivalent of the net gain i.e. appreciation in the price of underlying shares without any cash investment. These plans generally result in cash outflow for the company.
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