Social impact investment – time for some common sense from the FCA

Despite a commitment of £105 million to support Social Impact Bonds (SIBs) in the Spending Review, questions remain unanswered around the expansion of Social Investment Tax Relief (SITR)

FacebooktwitterlinkedinmailFacebooktwitterlinkedinmail   by John Spiers, 2nd December 2015

The Spending Review has seen an encouraging commitment of £105 million from the Government to support SIBs. I’m really pleased to see that and wait with interest to see how it will be allocated. However, it reminded me of the very unsatisfactory situation still prevailing with SITR.

We are still awaiting approval from the EU (twelve months and counting) to increase the limit that can be raised per organisation from about £250,000 to £5 million. This is essential to get the market moving and I hope the go ahead is received soon.

We also need to see a change of heart by the regulator. The FCA currently regards these as complex products that can only be marketed to sophisticated investors. In contrast, crowdfunding schemes can be marketed to anyone who declares (by ticking the relevant box) that they will invest less than 10% of their net assets. You can also walk into a betting shop and put your life savings on the 3:30 at Doncaster.

It seems crazy that investments which are trying to achieve positive impact in the community are more restricted than those trying only to make money. Social impact investing has the potential to make real change in our society and so I call on the FCA to allow SITR schemes to be marketed to anyone committing to invest less than 10% of their net assets.

About the author: John Spiers

John is the CEO of EQ. After gaining an MA in Engineering at Clare College, Cambridge he went into the City as a research analyst for 10 years.

In 1986 he set up Bestinvest and over the next 20 years it grew to become a leading private client advisory and wealth management business with over 50,000 clients. In 2007 Bestinvest was acquired by 3i.

Since then John has built up a portfolio of other interests, including the establishment of a Foundation to support various charities. He has taken a particular interest in projects aimed to increase the use of Early Intervention to reduce child abuse. He has also retained a close interest in investment, being a Fellow of the Chartered Institute for Securities and Investment and a member of the Investment Committee for Clare College.

John enjoys competitive sport and participates in historic motorsport and international croquet.

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