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A Fresh Look At Media, Creative Sector EIS Investments

Dan Perkins

5 November 2019

Here is a guest article about the Enterprise Investment Schemes sector in the UK by Dan Perkins, a director at , the media and investment firm.

The EIS sector is complex and there isn’t, as Perkins told this publication, a “one-stop-shop” to analyse past performance data across managers, and certainly this is an area that the whole industry needs to work on. As he also told us, most high-quality, respected managers in the EIS market are more than happy to share their past performance data (both good and bad) with investors should they be considering making an investment.

Investors can consult independent research reports from houses such as Tax Efficient Review, MJHudsonAllenbridge, MICAP and Hardman & Co to gain further insight into past performance and the credibility of the relevant manager’s proposed investment strategy. Perkins also says that it “always a good idea” to seek professional advice from either a financial advisor or wealth manager, who will have done their own research into which schemes they believe to be best of breed.

He also suggests that investors should focus on the following areas: governance structures – how robust is the manager’s compliance and governance framework? Is there independent oversight on the investment process? Sector expertise – how long has the management team operated in the sector they are proposing to invest into?; Fees – are they competitive? Are they fully disclosed and transparent? Does the fee structure align the interests of the manager with those of the investor?

Lastly, Perkins says that investors should diversify and spread investments across different managers and asset classes.

So, with these points out of the way, here is Dan’s article. The editors of this news service do not necessarily endorse all views of guest writers. To respond and jump into debate, email and

Enterprise Investment Schemes celebrate their 25th anniversary this year. Created in 1994, the tax reliefs of then Chancellor Ken Clarke were designed to encourage investments in small unquoted, early stage, high growth, entrepreneurial companies.

Some £18 billion ($23.3 billion) worth of investment later, EIS continues to be an enormous success story for the British economy, investee companies and investors alike. One of the biggest beneficiaries over that period has been the UK’s media sector.

However, investment into media-based opportunities has been tarnished in the eyes of many in the wealth advice community with historic, unapproved “film partnership” arrangements marketed in the late 1990s and early 2000s, subsequently being viewed as tax avoidance schemes for wealthy investors, making front page headlines and causing more than a few problems for the advisor community.

Yet the current EIS landscape is a world away from those arrangements. HMRC’s advance assurance process acts a pre-qualification test where companies must meet specific criteria to qualify for EIS investment. Under these measures – as refined by the Patient Capital Review and subsequently implemented through the “risk to capital” requirements – the emphasis has been placed firmly on the use of EIS for growth-oriented businesses only. 

While some saw this amendment as a potential hammer blow for media-based EIS investing, we are finding the opposite to be true because the sector’s fundamentals are so compelling.

Between 2010 and 2017, the UK’s creative industries saw its Gross Value Added (GVA) to the UK economy increase by 53.1 per cent - outstripping the 29.7% increase in the economy as a whole over the same period. Elsewhere provisional numbers from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport suggests that the UK’s creative industries contributed £101.5 billion of value to the domestic economy in 2017 alone.

Factor in that the sector employs over 2 million people in the UK and a voracious, growing consumer appetite for creative and entertainment media content globally (Netflix and Amazon spent a combined $13 billion on content in 2018 alone) and you can start to see why we believe the sector represents a major investment opportunity.

The tax benefits of EIS investment
While the choice of underlying assets into which you can invest may have shifted over the past year, many aspects of the EIS remain the same. The tax benefits of EIS remain the same, with the structure becoming ever more appealing to those individuals who find themselves limited as to what they can place into their pension either as a result of reaching their lifetime allowance or the recently introduced £10,000 cap for the highest earners. As a result, EIS is losing its niche label and is now being used as part of both longer term wealth accumulation and retirement planning strategies. 

Income tax relief of 30 per cent can still be offset against income tax already paid or payable in the current or previous tax year on investments of up to £1 million (or £2 million if the previous year’s allowance has not been used). 

EIS also allows investors to defer historic or future gains made elsewhere in a portfolio (subject to time restrictions), with any gains crystallised on the underlying investments being free from capital gains tax. For example, an EIS investment could benefit an individual facing a capital gains bill after selling an investment property where rates currently stand at 28 per cent for a higher or additional rate tax payer. 

Most importantly, given the high-risk nature of EIS investments, investors can claim share loss relief against taxable income should one or more of the companies in an EIS portfolio fail, resulting in an additional rate taxpayer effectively only ever putting 38.5p of their £1 investment at risk.  This is an incredibly valuable relief offered by the EIS and is a real differentiator to other popular tax efficient wrappers such as Venture Capital Trusts.

Diversifying investment portfolios
Of course, the UK’s creative industries are about more than just content creation. The UK leads the way in businesses focused on media distribution and marketing, post-production and visual effects, tech-enabled media and gaming. This makes for not just a diverse commercial ecosystem but also a broad pool of investment opportunities to target. 

By picking the best companies from each of these sub-sectors, creative industries focussed EIS funds are able to create a balanced portfolio for investors, spreading risk and offering significant upside.

Expertise, experience and track record is key
As with any fund or investment manager, investors and wealth managers should look for expertise, experience and a solid track record. This is particularly true of the creative industries where a proprietary network of contacts and commercial acumen is key to identifying, investing, managing and exiting companies that have the highest growth potential.  At Great Point, we have over 80 years’ combined experience and have produced, financed and distributed over $2 billion of content with over 500 film and TV production credits between us. 

The wealth sector has been understandably cautious about investing in the creative industries given its past association with certain high-profile film partnership arrangements. However, with the HMRC pre-approval mechanism and the recent rule change to ensure that capital is focused towards high growth companies only, EIS is a different proposition. The opportunity to support the UK’s creative industries is vast. 

By taking a sector agnostic approach and ensuring investment is focused on high growth, entrepreneurial businesses, HMRC has not only safeguarded vital funding for the UK’s media and creative sectors, it has hopefully secured the future of EIS for the next 25 years and beyond.