Our spotlight on our solicitors series gives us the chance to showcase the talent of our legal professionals. With these interviews, we uncover who the people behind the legal expertise are. This time, we caught up with jazz musician and Head of Equity Incentives, Ian Fraser.
How did you start your career?
Before pursuing his legal career, Ian worked as a professional saxophone player for fifteen years.
‘I was looking to take my career in a different direction - being a freelance musician didn’t give me the stability and structure I was looking for.’ said Ian. ‘I had already completed my geography degree at University of Reading, so I did a law conversion course and my LPC. I did this while in my early 30’s, so getting a training contract was challenging. I landed my first job at KPMG as a graduate tax consultant working in its employee and manager shares department. That was my first exposure to the equity incentives field.’
What are the main areas of your employee incentives expertise?
‘I cover the whole gamut of employee incentives work, ranging from tax structuring through designing and drafting standard and bespoke incentive arrangements to advising on the legal and regulatory framework. This is mostly for start-ups and growing companies at the moment, but I have advised some of the biggest international companies in the past.’
Can you recall any key moments from your career?
‘Early on in my career when I worked as a legal associate, I worked on a transaction where we were acting for a client who had joined Baker & McKenzie, the firm I worked at the time, as a smaller client. I helped them as a start-up and then to transition into a scaleup as they were acquired by an international company – that’s one of the reasons I enjoy working with growth businesses and working at Harper James, it gives me the chance to work with people who are coming up with new concepts and ideas.’
What do you think your clients value most about how you work with them?
‘I regard myself as a business advisor first, and a lawyer second.’ said Ian. ‘While the legal and regulatory implications are important to our clients, I always try to focus on what client is trying to achieve from a business perspective and how I can make that work for them from a commercial standpoint in a straightforward and pragmatic way.’
Can you comment on any recent stories or trends within the employee incentives landscape?
‘The changes to Company Share Option Plans recently announced by the Chancellor will change how businesses choose the plan that’s the best fit for them. Businesses using CSOPs going forward will be able to issue tax efficient options over double the value of shares compared to previous years, which will make it more attractive.’ says Ian. ‘There’s also been an uptick in the number of businesses who are choosing employee ownership trust structures as part of their succession planning strategies.’
Do you have any hobbies?
‘Playing the saxophone of course, I still perform at quartet jazz gigs and with some jazz big bands from time to time. I also enjoy sports – I play golf and go skiing in my spare time. I’m also a season ticket holder for Harlequins rugby club, so I enjoy going to the home games and to at least one international game in Europe every year!’
What are three things on your bucket list?
‘I’d love to see Scotland win the Rugby World Cup, improve my golfing skills, and see my daughters get on the property ladder. I am not sure which is the most aspirational!'