Alternative Isas: salmon, fashion or small company shares?

by , Principal Policy Adviser Money 26 March 2013
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You can already hold Norwegian salmon derivatives and Spanish olive oil futures in your Isa. So why can’t you invest in shares of smaller companies listed on the Alternative Investment Market?

Stocks and shares graph

Cash Isas offer the peace of mind of security of capital, but interest rates are low. By contrast, stocks and shares Isas offer the potential for higher returns, but with higher risks. Brits hold more than £190bn in stocks and shares Isas.

The range of investments you can hold in your stocks and shares Isa is very broad, from shares and funds to more exotic investments (like the Norwegian salmon I mentioned above). However, you are not allowed to hold shares in some smaller companies listed on the Alternative Investment Market (AIM) in your Isa.

This may soon change, as the government has announced a consultation that may pave the way for a new approach.

Isas could AIM higher

AIM is part of the London Stock Exchange that is occupied by smaller and growing companies. With banks still unwilling to lend, listing shares on the AIM is an important way for smaller companies to access capital and growth.

Companies currently listed on AIM include wine retailer Majestic Wine and online fashion retailer ASOS. Greater flexibility could mean that you would be able to back growing smaller companies, while enjoying the tax breaks of an Isa.

The growth potential of smaller companies comes with very high risks. AIM shares are more lightly regulated, so they are only likely to be suitable for a minority of investors. It’s important that they are part of a diversified portfolio and that you take independent financial advice. Most importantly, only invest what you can afford to lose.

What other investments would you like to be able to hold in your Isa? Are there any ways in which Isas could be made more flexible and encourage you to invest more?

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