RC Brown IHT AIM ISA

Apply inside or outside an ISA

RC Brown is a boutique investment management business with £307 million of assets under management. It has offered its AIM IHT portfolio service since 2018, in which it currently manages £12 million on behalf of its clients.

The business was founded by Bob Brown, the current chairman, in 1990, and all members of the RC Brown team – directors, managers and administrators – are equity shareholders or have equity options in the business. 

The investment team is experienced and has an investment strategy focused on finding opportunities in the primary market, e.g. new share issues. It is an investment strategy the business has followed for 30 years through its other mandates, including the MFM UK Primary Opportunities Fund. It sets it apart from other AIM IHT portfolios, who may participate in but do not have a focus on primary opportunities.

Investors in the service can expect a portfolio of 25 to 35 holdings (subject to portfolio value) across a range of sectors. The service has a simple and competitive fee structure.

Important: The information on this website is for experienced investors. It is not advice nor a research or personal recommendation to invest. If you’re unsure, please seek advice. Investments are for the long term. They are high risk and illiquid and can fall as well as rise in value, so you could get back less than you invest.

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Highlights

  • Experienced management team
  • Follows the primary market investment strategy it has used for 30 years
  • Transparent fee structure with no dealing or custody fees
  • Minimum investment £50,000 
  • Available both in an ISA and outside an ISA

The manager

RC Brown is a boutique investment management business based in Bristol founded by Bob Brown in 1990. Bob was previously at DRG, where he took the investment management of the DRG Pension Fund in-house. His team from the DRG Pension Fund followed him when he set up RC Brown. For the following two decades, the business specialised in managing portfolios for company pension schemes and major charities. In 2009, it expanded its offering to include private client investment management services. 

RC Brown has been investing in the AIM market for more than 20 years, and in 2018 decided to launch its own AIM IHT portfolio service.

All members of the RC Brown team – directors, managers and administrators – are equity shareholders or have equity options. RC Brown believes having a personal interest in the firm means its employees are motivated to provide the highest standards of service to clients. As of 31 December 2019, the business managed £307 million on behalf of its clients, with £12 million invested within the AIM inheritance tax service. 

The inheritance tax service is managed by two investment directors: Oliver Brown and Neil Whelan. 

Oliver has over fifteen years of investment experience and is lead manager of the MFM UK Primary Opportunities Fund. The fund often shares ideas with the inheritance tax service. Oliver is a qualified chartered accountant who joined the family business in 2006. 

Neil has over 18 years’ experience in the investment industry and has held a number of investment management roles in the South West and Wales. Neil joined RC Brown in 2016 and is a Chartered Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Securities and Investment. 

Oliver and Neil are supported by three investment professionals, including Bob Brown, Chairman.

Investment strategy

RC Brown’s investment strategy is focused on identifying and exploiting opportunities in the primary market: the term used to describe a market in which shares are offered for sale for the first time. RC Brown also includes wholesale activity. 

This is an approach the company has followed since it was founded in 1990 and is adopted by both its unit trust, MFM UK Primary Opportunities Fund, and the AIM IHT investment service.

RC Brown identifies four key scenarios, which might give rise to a primary market opportunity:

  1. Initial Public Offering (IPO) – Companies issuing shares for the first time, e.g. when they are admitted to AIM 
  2. Placings by companies – AIM-quoted companies might look to raise additional capital for expansion by issuing new shares 
  3. Placings by shareholders – Existing shareholders might look to sell a large position in a company which might be difficult to sell in the secondary market
  4. Sub-underwriting shares – Buying shares not taken up by shareholders in a recent rights issue, typically at depressed prices 

The main reasons why RC Brown pursues this strategy are:

  • Discount to market price: Companies wishing to raise new capital in the primary market typically issue new shares at a discount (usually 2–10%) to the current market price, to attract investors
  • Accounting clarity: A company wishing to raise capital needs to provide an update to investors/prospective investors. This allows RC Brown to complete its due diligence and be as confident as it can in the company’s financial position
  • Deal flow: RC Brown is a known primary market participant and sees many opportunities throughout the year, but only invests in a fraction of these.

Current portfolio overview

Investors into the service can expect to receive a portfolio of 25 to 35 holdings across a range of sectors. The average market cap of investments within the service is £525 million and in aggregate more than 50% of the assets under management is invested in businesses with market capitalisations of greater than £250 million (31 March 2020). The construction of client portfolios will be determined by market conditions and opportunities at the time of investment, each client’s portfolio may, therefore, differ slightly.

Investors can choose whether their portfolio should remain in cash whilst RC Brown invests into primary market opportunities as they arise, or whether it should be invested over a matter of weeks into RC Brown’s current buy list. The latter option might appeal to investors who wish to start the two-year minimum holding period as soon as possible.

The minimum investment is £50,000. This means ISA investors will need to transfer existing ISAs as well if they intend to invest new money. However, RC Brown has informed us it would consider a joint full ISA application of £40,000, for instance between husband and wife.

Source: RC Brown, Morningstar, as at 31 March 2020.

Source: RC Brown, Morningstar, as at 31 March 2020.

Example of portfolio companies

Hotel Chocolat – RC Brown AIM IHTHotel Chocolat (recent investment)

Hotel Chocolat is the UK’s leading premium chocolate brand . It started as an online members club and subsequently branched out into the high street. It has 125 locations across the UK (December 2019), as well as international presence and a strong online offering. With sales of over £100m and a strong growth trajectory since IPO in 2016, the shares could offer attractive growth prospects. RC Brown invested when the company was raising £5 million to strengthen its balance sheet as a result of its stores closing due to the Covid-19 pandemic and support its international expansion. It currently has stores in Ireland, Denmark, Japan and the US.

Yourgene Health – RC Brown AIM IHTYourgene Health 

Yourgene develops and commercialises genetic products and services such as non-invasive prenatal testing for Down’s syndrome and other genetic disorders. RC Brown acquired the shares as part of a fundraise to buy a complementary business whose products include prenatal cystic fibrosis testing. The acquisition materially increased the size of the company and moved it into profitability. RC Brown anticipates the company will continue to make small bolt-on earnings-enhancing acquisitions of complementary products. The shares have recently strengthened on news that Yourgene has won a contract to supply products used in the manufacturing of Covid-19 testing kits.

Morses Club 

As is to be expected, not all investments will be successful. Morses Club is an example. The business specialises in non-standard loans and is the second largest operator in the UK home collected credit market (agents deliver the loans directly to customers’ homes and visit each week to collect repayments).

RC Brown invested as part of a clean-up trade, where RC Brown and other institutions bought shares from distressed seller Woodford Investment Management. RC Brown considered the shares to offer value with a dividend yield over 5% and believed that with the Woodford selling pressure removed, the shares would head higher, as they initially did. However, Morses Club issued a profit warning as a result of higher than expected impairments resulting from a switch in focus from doorstep to digital collections. A worsening consumer backdrop as the Covid-19 pandemic started to unfold added to this. RC Brown exited its holding at a loss.

Performance 

The RC Brown AIM IHT portfolio service was launched in April 2018, so the performance track record is limited. 

The default view is the performance for this particular offer. You'll be able to see the performance of other AIM ISA offers if you click on the portfolio names above. Source: RC Brown and other AIM ISA managers. Performance is shown net of fees, excluding initial charges, with dividends reinvested, based on the average portfolio performance across the service, except for Puma and Fundamental which shows the performance of one example portfolio. Past performance is not a guide to the future. Dividends are variable and not guaranteed.

Access to your investment

Investors can request partial or full withdrawals from the portfolio at any time, subject to liquidity. In normal market conditions, RC Brown aims to fulfil withdrawal requests within 30 days but this is not guaranteed.

Risks – important

This, like all investments available through Wealth Club, is only for experienced investors happy to make their own investment decisions without advice.

AIM IHT portfolios are high-risk so should only form part of a balanced portfolio and you should not invest money you cannot afford to lose. Before you invest, please carefully read the Risks and Commitments and the offer documents to ensure you fully understand the risks. 

AIM stocks can be hard to sell, particularly at the smaller end of the market, and can be illiquid. Blankstone Sington’s focus on smaller companies may emphasise this concern. AIM shares can be very volatile especially if the market falls sharply. The difference between the buying and selling price of AIM-listed shares is often wider than the spread for shares listed on the main market. 

Tax rules can change and benefits depend on circumstances. Eligibility for BPR is assessed at the date of death and will depend on the companies in the portfolio remaining qualifying. Broadly speaking, you will need to have held a BPR qualifying stock for at least two years and still hold it on death to qualify. 

Whilst RC Brown has a long-serving and established investment team, in our view, there is an element of key-man risk as Oliver Brown and Neil Whelan are central to the service. 

Treasury review

A previous Chancellor requested a review of IHT to simplify the tax system. A report was published in July 2019, but this has not yet led to any rule changes. Please remember, tax rules can and do change and benefits depend on circumstances.

Charges

A summary of the main charges and savings is shown below. The investment may have additional charges and expenses. Please see the fees document for more details. If you would like a full breakdown or a personal illustration, please let us know.

Full initial charge £500
Wealth Club initial saving
Net initial charge through Wealth Club £500
Annual management charge 1.25%
Administration charge
Dealing fee
Performance fee
Exit fee
All fees and charges are stated exclusive of VAT, which may be applicable in some cases.

See example of the total charges over 5 years

Our view

RC Brown is an established investment management boutique with a close-knit investment team. All members of the RC Brown team – directors, managers and administrators – are equity shareholders or have equity options, which may translate into high levels of service for clients, and greater dedication from the investment team. 

The business has been investing in the AIM market for more than 20 years and in 2018 launched its AIM IHT investment service. The investment strategy is different to other AIM IHT offers due to its focus on primary market opportunities, an approach RC Brown has followed for 30 years. 

The service has a simple and competitive fee structure. The lack of dealing fees could be appealing, especially if investing smaller sums, where dealing fees can have a disproportionate impact on returns. For investors considering an AIM IHT portfolio, this is a competitive offering from an experienced team, which could complement other AIM IHT investments.

Read important documents and apply

Wealth Club aims to make it easier for experienced investors to find information on – and apply for – tax-efficient investments. You should base your investment decision on the provider's documents and ensure you have read and fully understand them before investing. This review is a marketing communication. It is not advice or a personal or research recommendation to buy the investment mentioned. It does not satisfy legal requirements promoting investment research independence and is thus not subject to prohibitions on dealing ahead of its dissemination.

The details

Portfolio size
£12.0 million
Average market cap
£525.0 million
Initial charge
500.0%
Saving via Wealth Club
-
Net initial charge
500.0%
AMC
1.25%
Last updated: 5 August 2020