Help for Investors
All the investment and savings products listed on Ethex offer social and environmental benefits on top of a financial return.
The organisations you can invest in have a variety of different structures and may be companies, co-operatives, community organisations or charities. Investments listed on Ethex must adhere to our own strict criteria and are carefully vetted. Our individual profiles on each product should tell you all you need to know.
Types of business
Understanding the types of activity a business engages in is key to making sure your money is having a positive impact. We’ve chosen to group businesses listed on Ethex according to their social and environmental benefits.
Finance includes those businesses that receive money from investors and lend it to, or invest it in, others. This can include providing affordable and flexible loans to the poor, lending to charities, or helping to develop more sustainable communities.
Fairtrade is about getting better prices, decent working conditions, local sustainability, and fair terms of trade for farmers and workers in the developing world. It addresses the injustices of conventional trade, which traditionally discriminates against the poorest, weakest producers.
Renewable energy businesses generate power from natural resources such as sunlight, wind, rain, tides, waves and geothermal heat, helping to address climate change. Ethex has a strong track record in supporting community-led and -owned solar and wind projects in particular.
Property encompasses fairer use of both commercial and residential property. This might involve providing affordable office space to charities or organisations with a social purpose, or housing let at low rents on a secure basis to people with special needs.
Community businesses are set up to address specific local challenges, bringing benefits to the local community and generating profits that deliver a positive local impact – whether it is social, economic or environmental. These can include organic food and sustainable farming projects.
Types of investment
We offer three main types of investment: shares, bonds and savings. Investment in a business is normally in the form of either shares (equity) or loans (debt). As an investor, it’s important to consider the relative risks and returns. Equity investments give you an ownership stake in the business, but in return for a higher level of risk than with savings. They only pay a return if the business makes a profit. Debt investments are typically lower risk than equity investments, but carry a higher level of risk than savings products. Debt investments offer a higher level of risk than savings products.
Savings offer a high degree of government protection, with up to £85,000 guaranteed by the UK government’s Financial Services Compensation Scheme, or, in the case of Triodos, by the Dutch government's Deposit Guarantee Scheme, up to €100,000.
Shares provide the equity a business needs; they are the financial foundation underpinning a business, enabling it to bring in other sources of finance. There are three main types of shares on Ethex:
Transferable shares are issued by companies and can be purchased or sold via the Ethex Bulletin Board. If you sell your transferable shares, it does not affect the amount of share capital that the business holds. Their value can go up or down and they usually pay a return in the form of dividends from the business’s profits.
Withdrawable community shares are issued by co-operatives. They can give you your money back, but only on terms set by the business. If you sell withdrawable shares you are taking money directly out of the business. Their value usually stays constant, and they pay a return in the form of interest, which may vary over the lifetime of the investment.
Depository receipts are a type of equity investment issued by international social investment organisations, allowing you to hold equity in foreign businesses. They are usually denominated in euros or dollars. You earn a return from the investment, but the risk is relatively greater than savings and there may be a foreign exchange risk as well. The funds are usually placed with a dedicated charity which then invests a matching amount in the business. Depository receipts do not give you voting rights in the business.
Savings accounts and savings bonds
Savings accounts and savings bonds allow you to deposit your cash and earn a rate of interest. You may need to give notice before withdrawing your money, and usually, the longer the notice period, the higher the interest rate.
If you save with a business listed on Ethex, your money will be lent on to other positive businesses or individuals, enabling you to support them indirectly. Your savings are spread across a range of projects that also helps reduce the risk.
An ISA, or Individual Savings Account, is a tax-free wrapper around savings and investments, meaning you can receive interest without paying tax. There are three different types of ISA: cash; stocks and shares; and innovative finance ISAs. You can invest in several different ISAs up to a maximum of £20,000 in 2017–18.
Cash ISAs are a tax-free savings account. You can hold more than one cash ISA at a time as long as you do not exceed the maximum ISA limit for the year.
Stocks and shares ISAs allow you to invest tax-free in stocks and shares. On Ethex we list an ISA fund, which means you are investing in a range of different products – see more above.
Innovative Finance ISAs were launched by the government in April 2016 allowing you to hold peer-to-peer investments tax-free. Ethex products are not currently eligible to be included in an IF ISA, but we are working on this for the future.
Children's savings accounts and ISAs
Making positive investments for children is a good way of getting them thinking about the impact they can have with their money at an early age. These products are designed specifically for children under 18.
Note, the Personal Savings Allowance, or PSA, was launched by the government in April 2016 and allows basic rate taxpayers to earn up to £1,000 in savings income tax-free. Higher rate taxpayers will be able to earn up to £500. Income from ISAs does not count towards this, however interest payments from withdrawable shares does, so they may be tax free.
Secondary market products
The secondary market is where investors can buy and sell shares, bonds and depository receipts they already own. Ethex runs a secondary market for a number of businesses, giving you the opportunity to invest even if there is no primary offer, much like on a mainstream stock exchange. Or you may want to sell an existing holding to reinvest the funds in a new offer.
An active secondary market gives investors confidence about the liquidity and tradeability of their investment and helps to reveal its true worth. Ethex’s secondary market is growing in importance as it offers a way for investors to buy and sell shares or bonds in social businesses. It is one of the key reasons Ethex was set up: to improve liquidity in the secondary markets by providing clear information about prices and availability of any particular product.
Businesses you can invest in through our secondary market include Cafedirect, Ethical Property Company, Thrive Renewables, Traidcraft, Westmill Solar, Thera Trust, and Greenwich Leisure. Our secondary market is operated in the form of a Bulletin Board to allow buyers and sellers of investments to contact one another and agree details of a trade.
The Ethex team are here to help from 9am to 5pm
01865 403 304