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Spring Statement: Octopus calls on the Chancellor to open up the ISA market so investors can better access unquoted companies

The Chancellor should use next week’s Spring Statement to open up the Individual Savings Account market by allowing people to invest in unlisted companies through their Stocks and Shares ISAs, says Octopus Investments, part of the Octopus Group.

There is £315 billion[1] currently held in Stocks and Shares ISAs. Octopus highlights that if just 1% of this capital was invested in small, unlisted companies, it would unlock more than £3 billion of extra investment for some of the UK’s most entrepreneurial, high growth small businesses (HGSBs) which are major contributors to our local and national economic growth.

Such a reform would not only improve access to capital for these businesses, but it would also allow more investors to access the potential growth of these companies at the smallest end of the market.

Paul Latham, Managing Director of Octopus Investments, says:

“HGSBs form a crucial pillar of the UK economy, but to date, it is a tricky sector for investors to access, with many investment portfolios under-weight in smaller companies”.

At present, people are only able to provide debt to unquoted companies, through the Innovative Finance ISA, preventing them from accessing the potential growth and upside that can come with early stage equity investing.

Latham adds:

“By changing the legislation, ISA funds could be invested in earlier stage smaller companies as well as in AIM and FTSE listed companies as they do now. It’s a move that we believe will create more choice and opportunity for investors comfortable with the risks of smaller company investing while improving access to capital for fast-growing businesses, particularly those that have exceeded the VCT investment limits. The UK has one of the best funding environments for SMEs in the world, but we think there is still more that can be done to channel large pools of existing capital to businesses looking to scale up.

“The legislation required to achieve this would be straightforward to implement, and some of the existing anti-avoidance legislation employed for Self-Invested Personal Pensions (SIPPs) could be borrowed to prevent special purpose vehicles from qualifying”. 

Chris Hulatt, co-founder of Octopus Group, commented:

“At Octopus we see first-hand the benefits that high growth small businesses deliver to our economy, not least through the thousands of jobs they create across the country. The Government’s decision to enable AIM shares to be held within an ISA wrapper has been a significant success story. There is now a real opportunity to build on this and for ISAs to play a meaningful role in supporting the next generation of UK business.” 

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Notes to Editors:

[1] HM Revenue & Customs Individual Savings Account (ISA) Statistics – August 2017

For journalists in their professional capacity only. The value of an investment, and any income from it, can fall as well as rise. Investors may not get back the full amount they invest. Tax treatment depends on individual circumstances and may change in the future. Tax reliefs depend on the portfolio companies maintaining their qualifying status. The shares of the smaller companies we invest in could fall or rise in value more than shares listed on the main market of the London Stock Exchange. They may also be harder to sell. Personal opinions may change and should not be seen as advice or a recommendation. We do not offer investment or tax advice. We recommend investors seek professional advice before deciding to invest. Issued by Octopus Investments Limited, which is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. Registered office: 33 Holborn, London, EC1N 2HT. Registered in England and Wales No. 03942880. We record telephone calls. Issued: March 2018