Seneca EIS Portfolio Service
This EIS portfolio service invests in later-stage, established growth orientated businesses. Seneca targets companies which have already proven there is a market for their offering, generate revenue and are either profitable or with a visible line to profit. It is likely investors will have a spread of unquoted and AIM listed businesses. As an established growth capital provider, Seneca has been largely unaffected by recent changes to EIS qualifying rules.
- Targeting 4-6 investments for each investor
- Already established businesses
- Strong history of deal flow and deployment in growth capital deals
- Deferred annual charges until investors receive back their net investment amount
- 1.6 to 1.8 x target return excluding any tax reliefs – not guaranteed
- Exit target within 5-6 years – not guaranteed
Seneca Partners was launched in 2010 by founding partners Ian Currie, Tim Murphy and Richard Manley. The purpose was to invest in small and medium-sized enterprises (SME) and help them grow. All three founders are SME specialists by background. They believed many SMEs in the north of England were unable to access the capital they needed to grow.
Seneca’s four offices across the North of England tap into this need. It is an established SME specialist offering equity, debt and corporate finance and debt advisory services and manages £116.6 million of tax-efficient investments.
The team comprises over 70 professionals with strong regional connections. This gives Seneca access to hundreds of investment opportunities each year from which it will seek to invest in around 20-25. Typically, there are at least 10 businesses in various stages of due diligence awaiting investment at any given point. This helps Seneca deploy investors’ funds in a timely manner.
Watch our interview with John Davies of Seneca Partners about the EIS portfolio:
The team is sector agnostic: it prefers to evaluate each business on the strength of its investment fundamentals with a particular focus on valuation and the ability of investee company management to deliver on the growth plan.
As at October 2019, the fund has a portfolio of 38 companies, 15 of which are AIM-quoted.
Currently, the portfolio invests in businesses across a wide range of sectors which Seneca believes can grow and flourish thanks to the injection of capital and experience of the Seneca team.
Unlike other EIS managers, Seneca typically looks to invest £1 million or more in each deal, which requires investee companies to have reached a certain level in their lifecycle and maturity, rather than early stage and startups.
As a further point of difference with other EIS offers, Seneca also invests in AIM-listed companies. These tend to be more substantial businesses using capital markets to fund growth and development. Seneca also sees AIM-listed investments as being more liquid and with visible daily pricing, although this means they might also be more volatile. It may also be easier to achieve an exit after the minimum three year EIS holding period. Seneca can use its strong relationships with the national broker firms and take part in institutional investments from its EIS Portfolio Service. Co-founder Ian Currie is key to this having raised capital for many AIM-listed businesses in the past.
Current portfolio examples
Please note these are previous examples and may not be held as new investments in the EIS portfolio.
SuperCarers Ltd (unquoted)
SuperCarers is an online matchmaking service for people in need of care (or their families) and vetted, reliable, local carers.
It was founded by brothers Adam and Daniel Pike after witnessing the difficulties their mother encountered when trying to arrange care for their dementia-suffering grandmother.
In 2012 Adam Pike was working on policy to improve care for the ageing population as a policy advisor in the Cabinet Office and Treasury, on secondment from Deloitte. Unsatisfied with the outcome, in late 2015 he launched SuperCarers with his brother, from their father’s small office.
SuperCarers has created technology that cuts out the middleman, i.e. care agencies, thereby cutting costs and improving the experience for both care workers and customers.
Demographic trends support demand for services of this kind: 4 million elderly people are estimated to need help by 2025.
SuperCarers was originally backed by the founders of Innocent Smoothie via their JamJar Investment Fund and Sir Tom Hughes-Hallett, the former CEO of Marie Curie, now the Chairman of Chelsea and Westminster Hospital.
Its advisory board includes Alan Rosenbach, until recently Director of Strategy of the Care Quality Commission (CQC); Paul Burstow, former Minister of State for Community and Social Care; Jan Burns MBE, Chair of the National Dignity Council; and Andrea Pope-Smith, Ex-Director of Adult Social Services at two Councils.
SuperCarers has grown consistently since its launch and has a clear path to profitability.
Seneca Partners invested £1.25 million in March 2018, in a funding round led by Mobeus VCTs.
Yü Group plc (AIM quoted)
Yü Group, which trades as Yü Energy, is a gas, electricity and water supplier to SMEs.
Bobby Kalar, the entrepreneur founder, started the company in 2012 to ‘take on’ the “Big Six” utility suppliers which control 85% of that market.
At the time, he ran his own care home business and experienced first-hand the frustrating combination of crippling prices and poor service SMEs tend to receive from utility suppliers. This gave him the idea for Yü Energy, which he funded through the sale of his care home business and personal savings.
The idea is simple: help SMEs manage their energy with great service and transparency. Practically this means each customer has a personal account manager and the call centre works on a three-ring guarantee, with an average query-resolution time of 90 seconds. Yü Energy provides flexible contracts and payment terms, and the billing and account platform has been designed to be as simple as possible.
The founder is still the major shareholder. Other significant shareholders, besides Seneca Partners, include Octopus Investments, Miton Group, Legal & General and Artemis. In October 2018 an internal review highlighted Yu had underestimated the number of bills unlikely to be paid and overestimated the energy consumption of several of its customers. This has had an impact on expected profits for 2018 and caused the shares to fall in value, however, the company eventually posted a smaller than expected loss for the year.
LoopUp Group (AIM quoted)
In 2016, business users spent 163 billion minutes on conferences calls in the U.S. and U.K. alone. It is estimated that in each call 15 minutes are wasted on problems getting started and distractions throughout. LoopUp was created to address this. Its premium software aims to make audio conferencing simpler and more efficient.
Unlike alternatives, LoopUp doesn't offer a myriad of features. Its software is aimed at mainstream users, who just want something that works. So LoopUp is simple and intuitive and doesn't require any training. It alerts you when your first guest joins the meeting, calls out to your phone when you wish to join, shows you who’s on and who’s speaking, and lets you share your screen with a click.
LoopUp sells direct to enterprises as well as using major distribution partners including Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise, BT, and Cable & Wireless Communications. Over 2000 enterprises worldwide use LoopUp, including Travelex, Kia Motors America, Planet Hollywood and National Geographic.
Seneca Partners invested in August 2016, when LoopUp floated on AIM. It was floated at 100p back then and was up to 175p within a year. The share price currently sits around the 325p mark, helped by soaring profits over the past 18 months and the recent acquisition of competitor MeetingZone Group in June 2018. Please note though past performance is not a guide to the future.
As is to be expected, not all investments work out.
FJ Holdings manufactured and distributed flow control products within the UK's water and waste industries.
Established in 2003, the group had expanded into a number of businesses and sought investment to help re-organise its subsidiaries and fund capital expenditure. Over two years, turnover increased by £15 million but the business came under pressure due to the large amount of debt it had taken on to support its growth.
At this point, Seneca worked together with specialist advisors FRP to help find a buyer. However, after the company announced a poor profit forecast in December 2016 any acquisition offers were withdrawn. The company entered into administration in February 2017.
£1.60–£1.80 per £1 invested, not guaranteed.
Seneca targets an exit from each individual investment within 5-6 years – not guaranteed. The AIM-listed companies’ shares could be sold in the market. Exit strategies for the unquoted companies include trade sales, buyouts or restructuring. Seneca could benefit from the support of its own Corporate Finance team when exiting private businesses
As the Portfolio Service is discretionary, Seneca will seek to exit at the optimum time, maximizing returns to investors whenever possible, although returns and timeframes are 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.
EIS / SEIS investments are high-risk so should only form part of a balanced portfolio and you should not invest money you cannot afford to lose. They also tend to be illiquid and hard to sell and value. Before you invest, please carefully read the Risks and Commitments and the offer documents to ensure you fully understand the risks.
Tax rules can change and benefits depend on circumstances.
This EIS / SEIS fund invests in early-stage businesses which are more likely to fail than larger ones. So you should expect a number of failures in the portfolio.
Fees & charges
|Full initial charge||5%|
|Wealth Club initial saving||—|
|Net initial charge through Wealth Club||5%||Annual management charge||2%|
|Performance fee||20%||Investee company charges|
More detail on the charges
Many growth-based EIS portfolios focus on investing in high-tech businesses. It is refreshing to see one that looks to support more traditional and mature, yet still potentially fast-growing businesses. Seneca has a wide and established footprint in the Northern regions of the UK, which could offer a geographically diverse exposure.
The charging structure encourages Seneca to secure favourable exits.
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.
- Target return
- Funds raised / sought
- Minimum investment