A comment on VCTs from Seneca’s Investment Director

A comment on VCTs from Seneca’s Investment Director

Seneca Partners Investment Director John Davies discusses VCTs and some major themes affecting the sector.

Tax advantaged investing is regarded by the UK government as a mechanism for driving the engine room of the economy. The younger, growing companies in the tax advantaged space are essential to the well-being of the Country as a whole, creating employment, prosperity and delivering revenues into the exchequer. Last year saw record inflows into VCTs alone with circa £800 million committed by investors across the UK and when combined with EIS, the figure rose to around £1.5 billion. With new pension restrictions fully in force, investing in VCTs or EIS continues to be a popular way for investors to utilise tax reliefs. The upfront tax relief of 30%, the potential for tax free growth and the dividends are all compelling although subject to qualifying rules.

Investing in VCTs is high risk and is not for everyone. For those investors it‘s suited, the government allows tax reliefs to encourage investment in these younger, growing businesses where the inherent risks are normally greater than investing in more mature, longer established businesses. These younger businesses must also meet strict rules to qualify as a VCT company so the Government can ensure that tax advantaged capital is reaching its desired destination. For that reason, and as should always be the case, investors need to adopt a sensible and appropriate balance within their overall portfolios and recognise that investing in young companies does come with risks attached.

Mitigating Risks – a manager’s perspective

One way that VCT Managers can mitigate risk is by setting a VCT capacity level that acts as a screening mechanism to ensure the investment process remains selective. Depending on the manager’s investment style and methods, restricting the capacity may allow more time to work with the companies for a more ‘hands on approach’. This could involve attending board meetings, providing support and guidance and in some cases even resources (other than monetary) to help them through their growth journeys. Such techniques allow managers to ensure companies are tracking to the investment plan and interfere with corrective action where needed.

In terms of portfolio selection, to help reduce the risks associated with earlier stage companies, the exposure should be spread across a number of companies – the number of which will be defined by the capacity limit and fund manager’s expertise.

VCT Managers should also have a healthy pipeline of investable opportunities allowing for any unexpected changes in the portfolio and to ensure opportunities are not missed.

VCTs and the Patient Capital Review

The government’s Patient Capital Review was designed to ensure that capital reaches the younger, less established companies who may ordinarily struggle to access it from more traditional sources. By definition, the types of transaction which are permitted have now changed and investment cheque sizes have also reduced as a consequence. The old model permitted large scale, leveraged buy-outs which had served VCT providers very well historically but these are no longer permitted and many providers are now having to pivot their strategies and find substantially more investment opportunities at lower values and if that conveyor belt doesn’t exist then it is bound to cause deployment issues. No investor wants to see their cash un-invested for a prolonged period and anecdotally some providers have opened up capacity again this year before investing funds raised last year.

VCTs and Brexit

Brexit obviously remains a major headwind which has naturally resulted in investor caution generally. In the tax year ended 5th April 2018, most VCT investments took place in the Autumn of 2017 ahead of any anticipated Patient Capital Review rule changes. Normally, VCT ‘season’ concentrates in Q1 and all the indicators suggest that will be the case for the current tax year. It is likely that investors will wait as long as possible with Brexit in mind but ultimately, the tax relief attractions mean that to take advantage for this tax year then they will need to do promptly.

Please note that investing in a VCT will put your capital at risk. Before investing in a VCT you should seek advice from a financial adviser.

Important information

This information is of a general nature and does not constitute an offer to provide services.

Any opinions or conclusions attributable to Seneca Partners are based on the understanding of the available information at the time of publication. Such opinions or conclusions are subject to change without notice.

The value of investments and/or any income arising from them may fluctuate.

Past performance is not necessarily a guide to future performance.

Important notice

The products and services shown on this website place capital at risk. Investors may receive less in returns than they have invested. Investments may not allow for capital to be withdrawn on demand. If an investment provides tax relief then this relief is subject to change and is dependant on personal circumstances. Any reference to past performance or forecasted performance is not a reliable indicator of future performance.

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Please confirm that you understand this warning and wish to proceed.

Risk summary

(Estimated reading time: 2 minutes)

Due to the potential for losses, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) considers this investment to be high risk.

What are the key risks?

  1. You could lose all the money you invest
    • If the business you invest in fails, you are likely to lose 100% of the money you invested. Most start-up businesses fail.
    • Advertised rates of return aren’t guaranteed. This is not a savings account. If the business doesn’t pay you back as agreed, you could earn less money than expected or nothing at all. In addition, if the tenant of the property being financed doesn’t pay the rent due as agreed or vacates the premises, you could earn less money than expected. A higher advertised rate of return means a higher risk of losing your money.
  2. You are unlikely to be protected if something goes wrong
    • Protection from the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS), in relation to claims against failed regulated firms, does not cover poor investment performance. Try the FSCS investment protection checker at https://www.fscs.org.uk/check/investment-protection-checker/.
    • Protection from the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) does not cover poor investment performance. If you have a complaint against an FCA-regulated firm, FOS may be able to consider it. Learn more about FOS protection at https://www.financial-ombudsman.org.uk/consumers.
  3. You won’t get your money back quickly
    • This type of business could face cash-flow problems that delay payments to investors. It could also fail altogether and be unable to repay any of the money owed to you.
    • Even if the business you invest in is successful, it may take several years to get your money back. You are unlikely to be able to sell your investment early.
    • Even if you are able to sell your investment early, you may have to pay exit fees or additional charges.
    • The most likely way to get your money back is if the business is bought by another business or is wound
      up following the sale of the underlying property. These events are not common.
    • If you are investing in a start-up business, you should not expect to get your money back through dividends. Start-up businesses rarely pay these. This investment aims to make quarterly repayments that comprise both a partial repayment of capital and interest, although this is not guaranteed. It could take over 14 years to receive back an amount equal to the amount you invested.
  4. This is a complex investment
    • This makes it difficult to predict how risky the investment is, but it will most likely be high.
    • You may wish to get financial advice before deciding to invest.
  5. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket
    • Putting all your money into a single business or type of investment for example, is risky. Spreading your money across different investments makes you less dependent on any one to do well.
    • A good rule of thumb is not to invest more than 10% of your money in high-risk investments. (See https://www.fca.org.uk/investsmart/5-questions-ask-you-invest).

If you are interested in learning more about how to protect yourself, visit the FCA’s website at www.fca.org.uk/investsmart

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Application Form Request – Seneca AIM EIS Fund


Application Form Request – Seneca EIS Portfolio Fund


Risk summary

(Estimated reading time: 2 minutes)

Due to the potential for losses, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) considers this investment to be high risk.

What are the key risks?

  1. You could lose all the money you invest
    • If the business you invest in fails, you are likely to lose 100% of the money you invested.
    • Many of the loans ultimately financed by your investment are made to borrowers who can’t borrow money from traditional lenders such as banks. These borrowers have a higher risk of not paying back their loan.
    • Advertised rates of return aren’t guaranteed. If a borrower doesn’t pay back their loan as agreed, you could earn less money than expected. A higher advertised rate of return means a higher risk of losing your money.
  2. You are unlikely to be protected if something goes wrong
    • Protection from the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS), in relation to claims against failed regulated firms, does not cover poor investment performance. Try the FSCS investment protection checker at https://www.fscs.org.uk/check/investment-protection-checker/.
    • Protection from the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) does not cover poor investment performance. If you have a complaint against an FCA-regulated firm, FOS may be able to consider it. Learn more about FOS protection at https://www.financial-ombudsman.org.uk/consumers.
  3. You won’t get your money back quickly
    • Some of the loans financed by your investment will last for several years. You may need to wait for your money to be returned even if the borrower repays on time.
    • Some Managers may give you the opportunity to sell your investment early through a ‘secondary market’, but there is no guarantee you will be able to find someone willing to buy.
    • Even if your agreement is advertised as affording early access to your money, you will only get your money early if someone else wants to buy your shares or the company in which you are invested has sufficient available capital to buy them from you. If no one wants to buy, it could
      take longer to get your money back.
    • If you are investing for growth, you should not expect to get your money back through dividends as the Service is not designed to pay dividends to investors seeking growth. If you are investing for income, it will take at least 25 years to get your money back purely through dividends.
  4. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket
    • Putting all your money into a single business or type of investment for example, is risky. Spreading your money across different investments makes you less dependent on any one to do well.
    • A good rule of thumb is not to invest more than 10% of your money in high-risk investments. (See https://www.fca.org.uk/investsmart/5-questions-ask-you-invest).
  5. The value of your investment can be reduced
    • The percentage of the business that you own will decrease if the business issues more shares. This could mean that the value of your investment reduces, depending on the basis on which these new shares are issued.
    • If these new shares have additional rights that your shares don’t have, such as the right to receive a fixed dividend, this could further reduce your chances of getting a return on your investment.

If you are interested in learning more about how to protect yourself, visit the FCA’s website at www.fca.org.uk/investsmart

Risk summary

(Estimated reading time: 2 minutes)

Due to the potential for losses, the Financial Conduct Authority (“FCA”) considers this investment to be high risk.

What are the key risks?

  1. You could lose all the money you invest
    • If a business you invest in fails, you are likely to lose 100% of the money you invested in that business. Most start-up businesses fail. Please see page 14 of the Information Memorandum for an overview of the types of businesses this fund invests in.
  2. You are unlikely to be protected if something goes wrong
    • Protection from the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS), in relation to claims against failed regulated firms, does not cover poor investment performance. Try the FSCS investment protection checker at https://www.fscs.org.uk/check/investment-protection-checker/.
    • Protection from the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) does not cover poor investment performance. If you have a complaint against an FCA-regulated firm, FOS may be able to consider it. Learn more about FOS protection at https://www.financial-ombudsman.org.uk/consumers.
  3. You won’t get your money back quickly
    • Even if the business you invest in is successful, it may take several years to get your money back. You are unlikely to be able to sell your investment early.
    • The most likely way to get your money back is if the business is bought by another business or your shares are sold on the Alternative Investment Market. The latter can only occur if there is a willing buyer.
    • If you are investing in a start-up or EIS qualifying business, you should not expect to get your money back through dividends. Such businesses rarely pay these.
  4. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket
    • Putting all your money into a single business or type of investment for example, is risky. Spreading your money across different investments makes you less dependent on any one to do well.
    • A good rule of thumb is not to invest more than 10% of your money in high-risk investments. (See https://www.fca.org.uk/investsmart/5-questions-ask-you-invest).
  5. The value of your investment can be reduced
    • The percentage of the business that you own will decrease if the business issues more shares. This could mean that the value of your investment reduces, depending on how much the business grows. Most start-up businesses issue multiple rounds of shares.
    • These new shares could have additional rights that your shares don’t have, such as the right to receive a fixed dividend, which could further reduce your chances of getting a return on your investment.

If you are interested in learning more about how to protect yourself, visit the FCA’s website at www.fca.org.uk/investsmart

Risk summary

(Estimated reading time: 2 minutes)

Due to the potential for losses, the Financial Conduct Authority (“FCA”) considers this investment to be high risk.

What are the key risks?

  1. You could lose all the money you invest
    • If a business you invest in fails, you are likely to lose 100% of the money you invested in that business. Most start-up businesses fail. Please see page 14 of the Information Memorandum for an overview of the types of businesses this fund invests in.
  2. You are unlikely to be protected if something goes wrong
    • Protection from the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS), in relation to claims against failed regulated firms, does not cover poor investment performance. Try the FSCS investment protection checker at https://www.fscs.org.uk/check/investment-protection-checker/.
    • Protection from the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) does not cover poor investment performance. If you have a complaint against an FCA-regulated firm, FOS may be able to consider it. Learn more about FOS protection at https://www.financial-ombudsman.org.uk/consumers.
  3. You won’t get your money back quickly
    • Even if the business you invest in is successful, it may take several years to get your money back. You are unlikely to be able to sell your investment early.
    • For companies whose shares are not listed on any exchange (‘unquoted’ or ‘private’ companies), the most likely way to get your money back is if the business is bought by another business or lists its shares on an exchange such as the London Stock Exchange. These events are not common.
    • For companies whose shares are listed on an exchange (such as the AQSE or AIM), the most likely way to get your money back is if the business is bought by another business or your shares are sold on that exchange. The latter can only occur if there is a willing buyer.
    • If you are investing in a start-up or EIS qualifying business, you should not expect to get your money back through dividends. Such businesses rarely pay these.
  4. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket
    • Putting all your money into a single business or type of investment for example, is risky. Spreading your money across different investments makes you less dependent on any one to do well.
    • A good rule of thumb is not to invest more than 10% of your money in high-risk investments. (See https://www.fca.org.uk/investsmart/5-questions-ask-you-invest).
  5. The value of your investment can be reduced
    • The percentage of the business that you own will decrease if the business issues more shares. This could mean that the value of your investment reduces, depending on how much the business grows. Most start-up businesses issue multiple rounds of shares.
    • These new shares could have additional rights that your shares don’t have, such as the right to receive a fixed dividend, which could further reduce your chances of getting a return on your investment.

If you are interested in learning more about how to protect yourself, visit the FCA’s website at www.fca.org.uk/investsmart