Early Birds Reap the ISA Rewards; The Early Investor Catches the Growth

Recent research has provided compelling evidence that within each tax year, early ISA (Individual Savings Account) investors significantly outperform those who invest in their ISA later in the tax year.

New data is clear; early investments in ISAs significantly outperform according to recent research from Hargreaves Lansdown. The research looked at a decade of investing clearly showed, individuals who maximised their ISA allowance on the first day of the tax year every year have seen their investments soar to a superb £360,500.

In contrast, those who waited to invest until the last day of the tax year, accumulated a lesser £322,500. The substantial difference, highlighting the cost of delay.

The conclusion from the research was unequivocal: timing matters. By investing early, you’re putting your money to work sooner, capitalising on a full year’s worth of potential growth. As we embark into the new tax year, let’s keep this lesson in mind and wherever possible be the early birds of the ISA world.

With the research in mind, it is also a good time to review what the market did in the 1st Quarter of 2024. Join us for our next free webinar on Wednesday 24th April at 3pm “Q1 REVIEW – WHAT HAPPENED TO AIM?” Click here to register. The webinar is CPD eligible. Submit your questions to [email protected]

In Episode 2 of The Professional Investor Podcast; Fundamental Asset Management’s Chris Boxall explains how a professional investor constructs an investment portfolio (which could be held in an ISA). Listen to it here or subscribe wherever you get your podcasts so you don’t miss a future episode.

To find out more about the benefits of AIM, please speak to our Business Development Manager, Jonathan Bramall, via email [email protected] or phone 01923 713 894.


Autumn Statement and Inheritance Tax

Despite many articles in the press in the run-up to today’s Autumn Statement, Inheritance Tax (IHT) was neither scrapped nor were thresholds changed.

With figures this week showing that the Treasury is on course to secure a record IHT take this year; if you want to save your family money on IHT when you pass away, you can use Business Relief by investing in qualifying AIM stocks.

What this means is if you buy and hold shares in such companies, you could potentially pass on those shares IHT free provided that:

    • the shares are held for at least two years and are still held on death
    • the company still qualifies for BPR at the time of the investor’s death

You could buy as few or as many shares as you wish. There is no upper limit or allowance. Provided the above conditions are met, the whole value of the investment – be it £10,000 or £10 million – should attract 100% IHT relief.

For those already invested, say it quietly, but we may have started to see the markets taking a tentative step towards turning the corner after a torrid time; however, “one swallow does not a summer make”.

As we know from back in 2020, the nature of AIM is such that large loses can be made up quickly – early that year saw falls in AIM of around 30% before ending the year with a rise of around 20%. Whether we are at the turning point in the market remains to be seen but the issue when it does move, is it can move very quickly, and with liquidity being limited, it means those invested, could end up being the only people who can take advantage of an invigorated market whenever it arrives.


In a recent interview with IG’s Jeremey Naylor, Chris Boxall, co-founder of specialist investment manager Fundamental Asset Management, discusses AIM’s challenges in 2023 and suggests what prospective investors should be looking for in the current environment and also what they should expect, when investing in AIM and smaller quoted companies.

You can watch the interview by clicking here.

Companies discussed include AB Dynamics, CVS Group, Jet2 and RWS Holdings.


Fundamental’s AIM IHT ISA and General portfolio is a discretionary investment management service where clients can obtain 100% mitigation from Inheritance Tax, benefit from the capital growth and income afforded by the AIM market and retain control of their assets.

You can find out more about AIM ISAs here: ‘AIM ISA Explained’.

Fundamental now offers its standard AIM IHT Growth Portfolio, as well as its newer AIM IHT Income Portfolio service.

All portfolios are managed by the same team of managers and researchers that have delivered exceptional returns since the firm’s founding in 2004.

You can find out more from the link here or by contacting [email protected] or calling 01923 713894.


HMRC today announced another record Inheritance Tax haul

HMRC today announced Inheritance Tax (IHT) receipts are £300 million higher than the same period a year earlier, totaling £3.2 billion.

With the government freezing IHT thresholds until at least April 2028, this trend looks set to continue.

Commenting on the HMRC figures, Fundamental Asset Management’s Chris Boxall said: “HMRC has once again announced a record increase in Inheritance Tax receipts. With few other solutions available, investing in Business Relief qualifying companies remains popular with advisers and investors to mitigate future Inheritance Tax. If shares in these companies are held for two years, and still held upon death, no Inheritance Tax is paid on the investment.

Many AIM companies meet the Inheritance Tax qualifying criteria and with the AIM market down substantially over the past 2 years and the valuations of many good quality AIM companies looking extremely attractive, it could be great time to invest and save future Inheritance Tax.”

Why does Private Equity love AIM?
The AIM market has had a challenging time over the last 2 years. However, while many investors have been steering clear of AIM, Private Equity has been taking advantage of the growing number of bargains, with yet another offer this week for an AIM company. On Tuesday 3rd October at 3pm, the founders of Fundamental Asset Management will be exploring the topic “What does Private Equity see in AIM?”. Your seat can be reserved by clicking here. This will also allow you to watch the webinar on demand after the event.

The webinar is CPD eligible.

You can find out more about AIM ISAs here: ‘AIM ISA Explained’.

If you or your clients would like to speak to one of our portfolio managers, please contact Business Development Manager, Jonathan Bramall at [email protected] or on 01923 713 894


The AIM ISA – 10 years and counting!

It’s 10 years since ISAs were allowed to hold AIM shares for the first time. So how has AIM changed over this time and why was the change in ISA rules so relevant for AIM?

A significant moment in the history of AIM

The change in ISA rules on 5th August 2013 to allow ISAs to hold AIM shares encouraged many UK investors to allocate a larger element of their investment portfolio to AIM than had been the case up until then, both through ISA transfers and the annual ISA allowance.

This change in the law, also opened a new opportunity for investors to start Inheritance Tax (‘IHT’)  Planning with their ISA, through investing in the shares of Business Relief qualifying AIM companies (formerly Business Property Relief or ‘BPR‘).

ISA transfers of greatest relevance

The ability to transfer an ISA was particularly relevant, as it avoided the Capital Gains Tax restrictions many investors faced beforehand when considering selling out of main market shares or collective investment schemes and moving into AIM shares.

You can transfer unlimited amounts from existing ISAs, however, the maximum that can be subscribed to an AIM ISA in a given tax year is determined by the ISA allowance at the time – currently £20,000 per individual per tax year.

How has AIM changed over this time?

Having peaked at approximately 1,700 companies at the end of 2007, by the end of July 2013, the number of companies had fallen to 1,086, with a total market value of £64.2 billion and an average market value of each AIM company of just over £59m. Despite the steep fall in the number of companies, thankfully there was a big improvement in quality.

AIM’s largest company in 2013, valued at £3.9 billion, was online fast fashion pioneer ASOS, which has recently moved to the main UK stock market. Only six AIM companies were valued at more than £1 billion, four of which were from the oil and gas sector.

New admissions offer glimpse of risk and rewards of AIM

July 2013 saw 15 new admissions to AIM, whose progress offers a glimpse of the risks and rewards on offer to those investing in AIM companies.

The new admissions in July 2013 included Conviviality Retail (Market cap on admission £87m), Frontier Developments (£48m), Keywords Studios (£59m) and Plus500 (£137m).

Conviviality, a wholesaler and distributor of alcohol, fell into administration at the end of March 2018, less than 5 years since joining AIM, after a series of disastrous acquisitions and profit warnings. Earlier in the year and well before its final demise, our associated research site Investor’s Champion highlighted concerns with Conviviality in this article here ‘Conviviality – plenty of red flags to concern shareholders!’. Led by an over ambitious CEO, whose remuneration structure was poorly aligned with outside shareholders, unfortunately it was just the sort of failure we came across all too frequently in the earlier days of AIM.

Thankfully things have improved considerably on AIM since then and it has also been far better news for shareholders in several of the other new arrivals from July 2013.

While shares in Frontier Developments have fallen back sharply over recent months, by April 2021 this video game developer carried a valuation of over £1 billion.

Keywords Studios, a service provider to the video game sector, has adopted a very successful buy and build strategy and is currently valued at £1.2 billion with the shares up over 1000 per cent since admission.

Plus500, which provides online trading services in contracts for difference, share dealing and options, moved from AIM to the main UK stock market in 2015. It is currently valued at £1.2 billion, with the shares also up over 1000 per cent since admission to AIM. Plus500 has also rewarded shareholders with some very large dividend payments along the way, many times the AIM admission price.

What about AIM in 2023?

Fast forward 10 years and the total market value at the end of July 2023 of AIM’s now 790 companies was £83 billion, an average of £105m per company which is close to double the average value in 2013.

Eleven AIM companies were valued at more than £1 billion with leisure travel group Jet2 the largest at £2.4 billion. Ten years ago, Jet2, which was then called Dart Group, was valued at only £350m.

It’s notable that there are currently no oil and gas companies among AIM’s £1 billion+ brigade, with Greencoat Renewables, an investor in renewable energy infrastructure assets, currently the largest energy company on AIM.

Another key attraction of AIM for IHT planning

A reflection of AIM’s heightened appeal to a broader investor base is perhaps best reflected in the growth in the daily value of shares being traded on AIM.

Back in 2013 the average daily value of shares traded on AIM was £156m per day. By 2021 the average daily value had more than doubled to £395m and even in the current market, where more elevated interest rates have and recessionary fears have seen trading volumes decline materially across the AIM and small cap universe, the average daily value in 2023 to date has still been £217m.

This liquidity is also another key attraction of investing in AIM for IHT planning purposes, the ability to access capital at short notice, should cash be needed.

What about the performance of the AIM market?

The last 10 years has seen the AIM Index deliver its usual roller coaster ride, soaring over the course of the pandemic and reaching all-time highs by the end of August 2021, only to fall back precipitously and currently sit only 6% higher than where it started on 5 August 2013.

As has always been the case, AIM remains a stock pickers market with the index offering a poor guide of the true potential to outperform and Fundamental Asset Management’s AIM IHT portfolio and AIM IHT ISA has significantly out-performed the AIM Index since inception.


You can find out more about AIM ISAs here: ‘AIM ISA Explained’.

Our recent Blog here considered how valuations on AIM are the most attractive we have seen. We also covered the valuations topic in depth in our recent webinar AIM: A Half Year Update.


AIM company valuations the most attractive we have seen

It’s been a torrid time for the AIM market for around 2 years now, with the  AIM index down just under 40% in that time. Yet things are far better than you might expect and what the declining share prices imply, if you know which companies to look at.

We have assessed 39 AIM stocks, representing ‘Core’ or ‘Satellite’ holdings within our AIM IHT Growth Portfolio (as opposed to our AIM IHT Income Portfolio). The average weighted market capitalisation of all stocks is £683m, which means we are primarily weighted to larger, more resilient AIM companies. What are the reasons to be positive?

In our webinar this week ‘AIM A HALF YEAR UPDATE’ we covered this and other topics. You can view the webinar here and download the slides for AIM a half year update.

We aren’t fans of the much used PE ratio in assessment of valuation given the number of adjusting items in arriving at ‘E’ and prefer to focus on Free Cash Flow (‘FCF’) in our assessment of profitability and valuation.

The average FCF yield of 4.47% of our 39 stocks is the highest we have ever seen for our AIM portfolio, highlighting their valuation attractions. This figure also adjusts for anomalies in a single year, in which case an average FCF over 3 years has been used.

Average forecast dividend yield is 2.65%.
Only 3 of our companies don‘t declare a dividend at all as they reinvesting available cash to support growth at higher rates of return.
Within our AIM IHT Growth book, this is the highest dividend yield ever. The average FCF/dividend cover is 1.71 times, suggesting dividends are well covered by cash flow.

10 companies are in a position of net debt and we are not currently buyers of 3 of these stocks, whereas 29 companies hold net cash.

Others in a net debt position are well within covenants and have reliable and supportive cash flow and are able to pay down debt rapidly. This puts them in a very strong position.

20 companies have the majority of their revenue coming from the U.K. (11 of these only operate in the U.K.). 2 of these are considered beneficiaries of a more challenging consumer environment.

3 of these are underpinned by UK government contracts (healthcare, infrastructure, energy).

2 Companies are estimated to have an even split in revenue between the U.K. and Overseas.

17 companies (43%) get the majority of their revenue from overseas markets, with some wholly overseas businesses.

Good stocks are being thrown out with the bad.

There is a wonderful opportunity to acquire good ‘growth’ companies on far more modest valuations, which is one of the reasons why several AIM companies have been acquired by private equity firms who are also sniffing around numerous others.

Sentiment around AIM can quickly change.
Back in 2020, a 35% decline turned into a 20% gain. This sort of change can happen very fast.

The AIM market has fewer “bad” companies than back in 2007/8 financial crisis. When you look into many of the larger companies and how they are performing (turnover, profitability, order books, cash flow etc), they continue to trade well, although you wouldn’t believe it from the languishing share prices! Once small investors start gaining confidence again, these companies will be well placed for share price increases.

If you or your clients would like to speak to one of our portfolio managers, please contact Business Development Manager, Jonathan Bramall at [email protected] or on 01923 713 894


HMRC Inheritance Tax receipts up again

Inheritance Tax (IHT) receipts were up again April 2022 to February 2023. Compared to the same period in the previous year, there was an increase of £0.9bn with a total of £6.4bn being received. This serves as a timely reminder of the ISA Deadline for clients who wish to deposit new or additional funds with Fundamental Asset Management’s AIM IHT portfolio service.


Existing clients: 5th April.
New clients: 3rd April at the latest (assuming all information needed has been provided).

With HMRC IHT receipts up again, don’t miss out on this year’s ISA allowance. Whole or part of existing ISAs can be transferred (subject to the existing ISA manager) to potentially reduce IHT further.

Our last webinar AIM ISAs here.

To find out more about the benefits of AIM, please speak to our Business Development Manager, Jonathan Bramall, via email [email protected] or phone 01923 713 894.


Storms continue to batter global markets

Global Markets Continue to Struggle

The outlook for global economies continues to look challenging, with high inflation and rising interest rates potentially tipping many countries into recession.

As a result, global stock markets, led as usual by the US, have been suffering for quite a while. Unfortunately AIM has not been immune to this, with the AIM index now down over 33% year to date.

The bear market since the summer of 2021 is one of the longest we have seen in our 30+ years in investment management. Even the financial crisis of 2008 did not last as long as this and we can only hope that we are somewhere near turning the corner.

Certainly, the recent updates from our core portfolio holdings have been largely positive, despite the challenges they face, although this has not been reflected in their share prices!

What do we do we do at the moment? 

As we have previously mentioned, with the market not reflecting the general positive performance of many of the companies in our portfolios, the simple answer is, we do very little, other than drill down into the many results and updates being reported by companies and keep a very close eye out for bargains.

During previous periods of excessive volatility we recommend clients ignore the manic movements of share prices and unless there is a need to sell, the best cause of action is to continue wait for things to turn around, knowing we are well invested when the turnaround occurs.

It is worth remembering that in February 2020, the AIM market fell 36% in a month but it finished the year up 20%. A similar recovery took place after the Financial Crisis of 2007/8. We expect something similar in the near future, with the AIM of today a far higher quality market than it was in 2008.

During periods like this, we consider long-term holders of small cap shares should view the stock market as effectively closed, unless they are looking to buy a potential bargain.

Potential light at the end of the long tunnel?

Despite all of the negative news, today the Office for National Statistics announced that rather than contract as their previous reading suggested, the UK economy grew in the second quarter of this year by 0.2%. Whether this is the start of things beginning to improve remains to be seen.

Upcoming webinar

The next Fundamental webinar on Wednesday 12th October at 3 pm is called AIM: cheap for good reason or bargains to be snapped up? It will be on looking back at the last quarter and reviewing the outlook ahead; including a focus on how have companies really been performing vs their stock price? To register for the webinar and to be able to view it after the event, click here.

To find out more about the benefits of investing in AIM, or if you wish to discuss the current situation, please speak to our Business Development Manager Jonathan Bramall via email [email protected]  or phone 01923 713 894.


Inflation proofed returns from AIM

Since arriving on AIM in 2011 at 60p per share (currently 930p) and a market capitalisation of only £50m (currently £1.25 billion), Glasgow headquartered Smart Metering Systems (‘SMS’) has evolved into a fully integrated energy infrastructure company.

SMS is a long-term holding in Fundamental Asset Management’s AIM IHT portfolios.

The global energy market has changed rapidly over the last few months and the requirement for a low carbon, flexible and secure energy system has never been greater or more acute.  The core focus of SMS is to facilitate a lower cost, lower carbon energy future.

At the time of its arrival on AIM, SMS was primarily a provider of gas infrastructure connection services and gas meter asset management services. It had also developed advanced smart metering technology solutions. Fast forward to the present time and the enlarged group now provides total energy solutions for its customers, helping businesses and consumers use energy for the better, with the aim of achieving a greener and more sustainable energy system.

In addition to their core meter asset management business, SMS now independently develops, owns and operates Battery Energy Storage Systems (BESS) that serve a greener, resilient, and more flexible grid and independent Electric Vehicle (‘EV’) charging solutions.

Inflation proofed returns

A positive trading update for its first half to 30 June commented how the installation of smart meters continued to pick-up with 230,000 installed during the first half of 2022, and the average monthly installation rate rising to 40,000 meters. As a result, the Group’s total smart meter portfolio increased to 1.9 million meters, with the order pipeline c.2.42 million meters.

The Group’s growing portfolio of smart meters supports plenty of reliable, inflation proofed, Index Linked Annualised Recurring Revenue (‘ILARR’), to which an annual RPI adjustment of +4.3% was applied on 1 April 2022.

The UK smart meter rollout continues to present a significant opportunity to grow their ILARR, with Ofgem requiring energy suppliers to exchange at least 85% of all meters to smart by the end of 2025. Ofgem has also proposed mandatory settlement of energy on a half-hourly basis, which would significantly increase the market size for these services from c.300,000 electricity meters to over 26 million meters by 2026.

SMS’ first grid-scale battery site (Burwell, 50MW) commenced trading at the end of January 2022 and the site’s current performance is well ahead of expectations.

New developments

The Group’s new Solopower solution, which was launched in 2021, aims to radically reduce carbon emissions within the UK’s social housing stock using solar generation and battery storage. Pilot projects are being progressed in over 1,000 homes across the UK, as well as early-stage projects in the Republic of Ireland.


The SMS website highlights how their investment case is rooted in sustainability, with its Sustainability Report providing detailed disclosure on the practical steps being taken to progress Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) responsibilities within their business strategy, culture, and everyday operations.

Their ‘net-zero by 2030’ target will see SMS drastically reduce their organisational carbon emissions to achieve a balance between the amount of greenhouse gas emissions produced and the amount removed from the atmosphere.

Green Economy Mark

SMS carries the London Stock Exchange’s Green Economy Mark. This recognises London-listed companies and funds that derive more than 50% of their revenues from products and services that are contributing the environmental objectives such as climate change mitigation and adaptation, waste and pollution reduction, and the circular economy.


Inheritance Tax receipts hit another record

HMRC’s latest figures show that Inheritance Tax (IHT) receipts for April 2022 to July 2022 were £2.4 billion, that’s £0.3 billion higher than in the same period a year earlier.

The Office for Budget Responsibility (‘OBR’) forecasts that as many as 6.5 per cent of estates could be liable for Inheritance Tax by 2026 – 75 per cent more than the 3.7 per cent that the figures show for the latest financial year.

With the AIM market down substantially from 2021 highs, now could be a great time to consider investing in qualifying AIM shares as part of a sustainable Inheritance Tax plan.

To find out more about the benefits of investing in AIM for Inheritance Tax planning purposes, where sustainability is also a key consideration, please speak to our Business Development Manager Jonathan Bramall via email [email protected]  or phone 01923 713 894.

This video presentation here provides a brief introduction to the Fundamental AIM IHT portfolio service, while our webinar here reviews the second quarter of the year and discusses our ESG and PRI developments.


Fundamental Asset Management