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Protocol | Workplace

Zoom gave employees stock to stay during the pandemic. It's turned into a windfall.

Zoom's skyrocketing share price turned into a great payday for the videoconferencing employees who stuck around.

Zoom home screen

In the U.S., Zoom gave out 450 RSUs, or restricted stock units, to employees.

Photo: Bloomberg/Getty Images

In June 2020, Zoom had just finished the craziest quarter of its business. While some companies had handed out office stipends or extra time off, Zoom took it a step further. Last summer it gave every employee a special stock grant, with the exception of Zoom's CEO Eric Yuan, who declined the award.

For U.S. employees, the value was worth roughly $63,000, according to an SEC filing. But thanks to Zoom's stock boom as the pandemic dragged on, the value of those shares has nearly tripled, and are worth around $171,000 today.

The goal of the special stock grant was to reward employees who had been under intense pressure during the pandemic, and also to convince them to stick around during a critical time for the business, the SEC filing states.

At the time, the value of the 450 shares granted to U.S. employees was around 60% of U.S. employees' average base salaries, the company said in filings. (Other Zoom geographies received different numbers of shares.)

But Zoom's stock has been on a tear as the videoconferencing company saw tremendous growth in 2020 and became a household name during the pandemic. Its stock price reached a peak of around $568 in October 2020 before settling around $380 for the last few weeks. And with the ballooning stock price, the retention award bonus has swelled too.

In the U.S., Zoom gave out 450 RSUs, or restricted stock units, to employees. Unlike options, which give employees a right to buy stock for a lower stock price, RSUs convert to shares whenever certain conditions are met. As part of the Zoom bonus terms, the stock vests over two years in two chunks, so employees had to have stayed through this past June to get the first half of the 450 shares, and will need to remain with Zoom until June 8, 2022 for the second half. So last month, U.S. employees at Zoom who had stuck around for a year received the first tranche of 225 shares from the award, valued on June 8 at around $76,000 — more than the entire award's initial target value.

It's a unique form of "golden handcuffs" to incentivize that workforce to stick around, while also being a tremendous reward for those who did. Retention bonuses aren't uncommon in the tech industry, but they're typically targeted at specific executives or toward employees after an acquisition so they stick around at the new company. For example, when Walmart bought Jet.com, Marc Lore reportedly received RSUs worth more than $250 million, but the five-year vesting schedule was backloaded so that it only vested 10% in the first year compared to 30% in five. (He lasted 4 and a half years before leaving in January 2021.) When Facebook executive Chris Cox rejoined as its chief product officer, the company awarded him an extra $4 million on top of his $69 million signing bonus to stick around for a year.

What makes the Zoom award unique is that it wasn't just about convincing employees to stay, but to reward them for keeping the world connected at the start of the pandemic. The bonus was meant as a thank you to the employees, and in the end, the Zoom bonus was worth a lot more than the average home office stipend or days off most tech companies gave out.

Protocol | Workplace

The Activision Blizzard lawsuit has opened the floodgates

An employee walkout, a tumbling stock price and damning new reports of misconduct.

Activision Blizzard is being sued for widespread sexism, harassment and discrimination.

Photo: Bloomberg/Getty Images

Activision Blizzard is in crisis mode. The World of Warcraft publisher was the subject of a shocking lawsuit filed by California's Department of Fair Employment and Housing last week over claims of widespread sexism, harassment and discrimination against female employees. The resulting fallout has only intensified by the day, culminating in a 500-person walkout at the headquarters of Blizzard Entertainment in Irvine on Wednesday.

The company's stock price has tumbled nearly 10% this week, and CEO Bobby Kotick acknowledged in a message to employees Tuesday that Activision Blizzard's initial response was "tone deaf." Meanwhile, there has been a continuous stream of new reports unearthing horrendous misconduct as more and more former and current employees speak out about the working conditions and alleged rampant misogyny at one of the video game industry's largest and most powerful employers.

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Nick Statt
Nick Statt is Protocol's video game reporter. Prior to joining Protocol, he was news editor at The Verge covering the gaming industry, mobile apps and antitrust out of San Francisco, in addition to managing coverage of Silicon Valley tech giants and startups. He now resides in Rochester, New York, home of the garbage plate and, completely coincidentally, the World Video Game Hall of Fame. He can be reached at nstatt@protocol.com.

Over the last year, financial institutions have experienced unprecedented demand from their customers for exposure to cryptocurrency, and we've seen an inflow of institutional dollars driving bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies to record prices. Some banks have already launched cryptocurrency programs, but many more are evaluating the market.

That's why we've created the Crypto Maturity Model: an iterative roadmap for cryptocurrency product rollout, enabling financial institutions to evaluate market opportunities while addressing compliance requirements.

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Caitlin Barnett, Chainanalysis
Caitlin’s legal and compliance experience encompasses both cryptocurrency and traditional finance. As Director of Regulation and Compliance at Chainalysis, she helps leading financial institutions strategize and build compliance programs in order to adopt cryptocurrencies and offer new products to their customers. In addition, Caitlin helps facilitate dialogue with regulators and the industry on key policy issues within the cryptocurrency industry.
Protocol | Workplace

Founder sues the company that acquired her startup

Knoq founder Kendall Hope Tucker is suing the company that acquired her startup for discrimination, retaliation and fraud.

Kendall Hope Tucker, founder of Knoq, is suing Ad Practitioners, which acquired her company last year.

Photo: Kendall Hope Tucker

Kendall Hope Tucker felt excited when she sold her startup last December. Tucker, the founder of Knoq, was sad to "give up control of a company [she] had poured five years of [her] heart, soul and energy into building," she told Protocol, but ultimately felt hopeful that selling it to digital media company Ad Practitioners was the best financial outcome for her, her team and her investors. Now, seven months later, Tucker is suing Ad Practitioners alleging discrimination, retaliation and fraud.

Knoq found success selling its door-to-door sales and analytics services to companies such as Google Fiber, Inspire Energy, Fluent Home and others. Knoq representatives would walk around neighborhoods, knocking on doors to market its customers' products and services. The pandemic, however, threw a wrench in its business. Prior to the acquisition, Knoq says it raised $6.5 million from Initialized Capital, Haystack.vc, Techstars and others.

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Megan Rose Dickey
Megan Rose Dickey is a senior reporter at Protocol covering labor and diversity in tech. Prior to joining Protocol, she was a senior reporter at TechCrunch and a reporter at Business Insider.
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Protocol | Workplace

What’s the purpose of a chief purpose officer?

Cisco's EVP and chief people, policy & purpose officer shares how the company is creating a more conscious and hybrid work culture.

Like many large organizations, the leaders at Cisco spent much of the past year working to ensure their employees had an inclusive and flexible workplace while everyone worked from home during the pandemic. In doing so, they brought a new role into the mix. In March 2021 Francine Katsoudas transitioned from EVP and chief people officer to chief people, policy & purpose Officer.

For many, the role of a purpose officer is new. Purpose officers hold their companies accountable to their mission and the people who work for them. In a conversation with Protocol, Katsoudas shared how she is thinking about the expanded role and the future of hybrid work at Cisco.

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Amber Burton

Amber Burton (@amberbburton) is a reporter at Protocol. Previously, she covered personal finance and diversity in business at The Wall Street Journal. She earned an M.S. in Strategic Communications from Columbia University and B.A. in English and Journalism from Wake Forest University. She lives in North Carolina.

Protocol | Fintech

The digital dollar is coming. The payments industry is worried.

Jodie Kelley heads the Electronic Transactions Association. The trade group's members, who process $7 trillion a year in payments, want a say in the digital currency.

Jodie Kelley is CEO of the Electronic Transactions Association.

Photo: Electronic Transactions Association

The Electronic Transactions Association launched in 1990 just as new technologies, led by the World Wide Web, began upending the world of commerce and finance.

The disruption hasn't stopped.

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Benjamin Pimentel

Benjamin Pimentel ( @benpimentel) covers fintech from San Francisco. He has reported on many of the biggest tech stories over the past 20 years for the San Francisco Chronicle, Dow Jones MarketWatch and Business Insider, from the dot-com crash, the rise of cloud computing, social networking and AI to the impact of the Great Recession and the COVID crisis on Silicon Valley and beyond. He can be reached at bpimentel@protocol.com or via Signal at (510)731-8429.

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