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Restricted Stock Unit (RSU)


Restricted Stock Unit (RSU) is a form of employee compensation issued by an employer to an employee in the form of company shares. However, the shares are “restricted” because they’re subject to a vesting schedule, meaning the employee can’t sell or transfer the shares until certain conditions or time periods are met. The shares are usually vested based on duration of employment or specific performance milestones.


The phonetics of the keyword “Restricted Stock Unit (RSU)” would be as follows:Restricted: rɪˈstrɪktɪd Stock: stɒk Unit: ˈjuːnɪt RSU: ɑːrɛsuː

Key Takeaways

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  1. Restricted Stock Units (RSUs) represent company’s shares that are promised to an employee through an incentive program, but they have some conditions attached. The “restricted” component of the RSU signifies that the employee must meet certain conditions before obtaining the right to the shares.
  2. RSUs are typically subject to a vesting schedule, which means they only become the employee’s property after a predetermined period of time or upon achieving certain performance milestones. Until the vesting period is over, the employee cannot sell or transfer the RSUs.
  3. When RSUs vest, they are considered income, and a portion of the shares is often sold to pay for income taxes. The employee receives the remaining shares and can treat them as they see fit.



Restricted Stock Units (RSUs) play a crucial role in corporate finance as they are often used as part of an employee compensation package, allowing organizations to attract, motivate, and retain talent. It not only incentivizes employees to contribute to the company’s overall performance and profitability, but it also promotes employee ownership in the organization, fostering commitment and long-term loyalty. Additionally, RSUs can align the interests of shareholders and employees, driving shared success. They may also serve as a financial planning strategy, allowing employees to diversify their investment portfolios. Furthermore, from a business management viewpoint, the vesting schedule of RSUs can be structured to reward employee tenure and performance, underscoring their importance in human resource and compensation management.


Restricted Stock Units (RSUs) are a form of employee compensation used by corporations to incentivize and retain key employees. They are typically granted as part of an overall compensation package, and serve to align the interests of the employees with those of the company and its shareholders. RSUs give the employee an interest in the company’s success and long-term viability, thereby encouraging loyalty and commitment. By tying a portion of the employee’s potential earnings to the company’s performance, RSUs also work to motivate employees to perform at their best, thus yielding a direct correlation between employee effort and business outcomes.RSUs are often granted with vesting schedules, which provide a measure of job security for employees and aid in retention strategies for companies. This means that the benefits from the RSU are realized not when they are granted, but later, typically over a span of several years. The vesting schedule adds a forward-looking perspective to the compensation, effectively rewarding employees for ongoing service to the company. Besides, offering RSUs could make a job offer from a company more attractive, especially in the case of start-ups where cash liquidity might be tight, but potential future growth is substantial.


1. **Example 1: Microsoft Corporation Employee Program** – Microsoft uses Restricted Stock Units as part of their employees compensation package. They are issued as a promise to give shares of stocks at a future date. After a vesting period of generally 4 years, employees are able to sell or transfer these RSUs. This works as an incentive for employees to stay with the company long-term and contribute positively to its performance.2. **Example 2: Facebook RSU Issuance Model** – Shortly before their initial public offering (IPO) in 2012, Facebook issued RSUs to their employees instead of direct stock options. The RSUs converted to stock upon Facebook going public, allowing employees to partake in the company’s financial success. This had profound implications for retention of executive talent and the overall allure of Facebook as an employer.3. **Example 3: Amazon’s Compensation Package** – Tech giant Amazon also uses RSUs extensively in their compensation packages. It provides a set number of RSUs to its employees on their hiring date, which then vest over a specific time period. This strategy ensures that the employees stay motivated and retain a certain loyalty to the company due to the significant financial potential the vested shares may bring in the future.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

What are Restricted Stock Units (RSUs)?

Restricted Stock Units or RSUs are a type of company shares granted to an employee, yet the company restricts the transferability and redemption of these units until the employee fulfills a specific vesting schedule or meets performance milestones.

How do RSUs work?

RSUs work by giving employees the promise of shares at a later date. These shares usually vest over a period of time to incentivize the employee to stay with the company and meet performance goals.

Are RSUs considered taxable income?

Yes, RSUs are generally considered taxable income. They are taxed at the time of vesting, not at the time of grant, based on the fair market value of the shares.

How do RSUs differ from stock options?

Unlike stock options, RSU offers employees company shares outright, subject to vesting. While stock options give employees the right to purchase company stocks at a predetermined price, regardless of the current market value.

When do RSUs typically vest?

The vesting period for RSUs is set by the company and is usually between 1 to 4 years. Some companies may also set performance conditions for vesting.

Can RSUs be sold?

Once vested, the employee owns the shares and has the right to sell them.

What happens to RSUs if an employ leaves the company before they have fully vested?

If an employee leaves the company before the RSUs are fully vested, they usually forfeit unvested shares. However, some companies may have different policies, so it’s important to check with your employer.

Can a company take back RSUs once they’ve been granted?

Until the RSUs are vested, the company can take them back. But once they’ve been vested, they cannot be taken back.

What happens to my RSUs if the company is sold?

If the company is sold, what happens to your RSUs depends on the terms of the sale and the specific agreement in your RSU grant.

Related Finance Terms

  • Vesting Schedule: This refers to the time period in which an employee becomes entitled to gain ownership of the restricted stock units assigned to them.
  • Equity Compensation: A non-cash pay offered to employees, which includes the provision of stocks or stock options such as RSUs.
  • Performance Conditions: Certain conditions employees need to meet in order for their RSUs to vest, typically related to company’s financial performance.
  • Deferred Compensation: Compensation that is set aside to be paid at a later date, like RSUs which are paid upon vesting.
  • Grant Date: The date when an employer issues RSUs to an employee under the terms of the company’s equity compensation plan.

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