AJ Bell, Hargreaves, Interactive want IPO retail access

The CEOs of AJ Bell, Hargreaves Lansdown and Interactive Investor have joined forces to demand greater access for retail investors to Initial Public Offerings (IPOs) in the UK.

The CEOs have written an open letter urging John Glen MP, Economic Secretary to the Treasury and City Minister, to consider the rights of retail shareholders in relation to IPOs.

“For too long, UK listings have been the preserve of financial institutions …” said the CEOs.

“It is written as an open letter because the three companies want the arguments made to also be heard by the boards and advisers of companies considering listing on the London Stock Exchange (LSE).”

The letter reads: “Our combined businesses administer assets worth over £200 billion for around 2 million retail investors in the UK.

“These and other retail investors are a growing market but are excluded from the majority of IPOs via the LSE, with the Hut Group, Dr Martens and Moonpig recent high-profile examples.

“For too long, UK listings have been the preserve of financial institutions and we urge you to consider the rights of retail shareholders in relation to IPOs.

“This could be in the form of a consultation on how retail investors are given fair access to IPOs and not disadvantaged in favour of city institutions.

“Part of this debate should be around whether there needs to be a regulatory obligation on companies coming to market to consider a retail element to their IPO.

“Currently there is a danger that this only happens when the company and its advisers suspect there will be weak demand for the IPO.

“Regulatory change will take time, so we also call on the boards, chairs and CEOs of companies considering listing on the LSE, and the advisers to these companies, to ensure a proportion of the shares offered through their IPOs are made available to UK retail investors.

“Ultimately it is the boards of companies that control whether their IPO is open to retail investors, but they are currently discouraged to do so by the sponsoring investment banks …

“As it stands, retail shareholder rights are almost completely ignored when it comes to the vast majority of IPOs, which largely take place between City institutions behind closed doors.

“It has been reported that between October 2017 and October 2020, private investors were invited to take part in just 24 out of 352 IPOs on the main market and AIM.

“That means they were excluded from 93% of share launches.

“That needs to change.

“Retail investors should have as much right as any other institution to invest atIPO, rather than having to ‘get in line’ and potentially buy the shares at a premium in the openmarket, post IPO.

“The UK taxpayer stands behind UK plc and should have unfettered opportunity.

“Most of the growing numbers of retail investors in the UK manage their portfolios via investment platforms that can provide quick and easy access to IPOs.

“From a practical perspective, opening an IPO to retail investors is now a standardised process which is fully compliant with the FCA listing rules and requirements of the London Stock Exchange.

“Retail investors are provided with all the necessary information via the investment platform and they apply for a monetary amount via their existing online account.

“All shares issued are held in the platform’s nominee account and the platform manages the ongoing requirements of the shareholder, for example by issuing any dividends, so there are no additional ongoing costs or administration for the listed company.”

The CEOs argued htere are also several benefits to companies of having a retail offer as part of their IPO:

  • It gives them access to an additional source of capital and can generate increased demand for the IPO
  • It can help raise the profile of the business and deepen relationships with loyal customers by treating them equally with institutional investors
  • It can create a healthy shareholder base – most retail investors are long-term holders via pensions and ISAs and supportive of management, creating shareholder diversification and pricing stability