White Ink Architects becomes first employee-owned company

White Ink employees outside their Belfast headquarters. Picture: Brian Morrison
White Ink employees outside their Belfast headquarters. Picture: Brian Morrison

THE White Ink architectural practice in Belfast has become the first wholly Northern Ireland-based consultancy to make the move to employee ownership.

Its owners have sold their entire shareholding to an Employee Ownership Trust (EOT), which will manage 100 per cent of the company shares on behalf of its employees.

White Ink ( - which marks its 20th anniversary later this month - joins other employee-owned companies in Britain such as the John Lewis Partnership, Lush and Aardman Animations.

Joan McCoy, one of three directors at the company a past president of the Royal Society of Ulster Architects and a previous ‘Best Woman Architect’ winner at the European Women in Construction Awards, said: “We believe employee ownership heralds the start of a vibrant new chapter in the White Ink story.

“Our team now has a mammoth incentive to continue to drive forward the performance of the practice, helping our clients and improving lives through the buildings we create. This is going to benefit clients who, under the leadership of the existing directors, have a team of employee owners more connected to their success than ever before.”

White Ink Architects' turnover in 2020 reached £2.4 million, a 2.7 per cent increase on the previous year, and it anticipates it will improve these figures for 2021 and is targeting a 10 per cent sales increase for 2022.

Fellow director Claude Maguire added: “We’re proud of the company we’ve built and the strong client relationships we have formed over the last 20 years.

“It is important we protect White Ink’s legacy whilst acknowledging the contribution of our team to our success, so we are delighted to be placing the future of the company into the hands of our employees.

“The new ownership structure removes barriers to succession, ensuring that the choice of future leaders will be determined solely on talent, ability and the drive to deliver White Ink’s vision.”

The company's third director Sean Tunney said: “Remote working during the pandemic reinforced that it’s possible to compete in the UK marketplace regardless of location. A key driver for our staff is the excitement of working on multi-million projects in London and beyond, whilst enjoying the benefits of living in Northern Ireland.”

As part of the transition, White Ink Architects has made several appointments to strengthen the existing management team and nurture talent.

Claire McAteer, Pearse McCann and Shane McCrory step into a management role as associates, with a combined 13 years of working at White Ink Architects.