What is a retail bond?

A retail bond issue allows companies to raise extra capital by borrowing from an investor at a fixed rate for a set period. As with any capital raise, companies usually launch retail bonds to expand their business, pay off debt or finance a particular project.

Typical issues look to raise between £10m and £350m and can offer interest rates as high as 7%, though are typically lower – a tempting offer for investors at a time when even the best savings accounts struggle to offer good returns.

How retail bonds work

The company launches a bond as a debt security, owing the holders a debt, and is obliged to pay them interest or to repay the principal at a later date. Bonds have a fixed life and the end date of the bond is known as the maturity date.

Retail bonds can be thought of as an ‘I owe you’, with interest normally payable at fixed intervals. Due dates for interest payments will depend on the details of the bond issue itself and could be semiannual, annual, quarterly or very occasionally paid out on a monthly basis.

Retail bonds differ to mini bonds, which need to be held until expiry (typically three to five years). In contrast, retail bonds are normally listed and therefore can be bought and sold during normal market hours, giving investors a greater level of flexibility. They are traded on the Order Book for Retail Bonds, or Orb, which is part of the London Stock Exchange (LSE).

As they are subject to strict regulation before issue, investors have more opportunity to understand the risks than when they buy mini bonds. This means that retail bonds are more stringently regulated than mini bonds. SyndicateRoom only works on listed retail bonds.

You can keep up to date on latest trading details on the LSE website.

What are the risks?

As with any investment opportunity, there are risks associated with investing in retail bond issues. There is an opportunity that the company you invest in finds itself in difficulties, in which case there is potential to lose all the money you invested.

If you hold onto the bond until maturity, inflation means that the money you receive back is more than likely to be worth less than your original investment. This should however hopefully be mitigated by the interest payments received before the bond reaches maturity.

Discover more alternative investments

If you're in the market to diversify your portfolio and aren't sure whether mini-bonds are for you, not to worry – there are plenty alternatives on the table.

Alternative investments include investments in tangible assets, such as art and wine, as well as financial assets, like cryptocurrency and private equity – basically anything falling outside the purview of the more ‘traditional’ investments: cash, bonds and stocks.

View alternative investments