The Two Minute Review
- 🌎 A total commitment to ethical investing.
- 😀 Takes a lot of the hassle out of investing.
- 💰 Cost is generally quite low, especially for larger funds.
- 😀 ISAs and SIPPs are available as well as a General Investment Account.
- 😐 Not a huge choice of funds.
- 🖥️ No desktop version.
- 📉 Recent performance hasn’t been great.
- 💰 Subscription cost makes it expensive for smaller funds.
What The Experts Say
What Users Say
Some Interesting User Comments
We spend hours reading user comments to see what feedback people are giving. Here are some positive and critical comments that stood out to us:
In the scary and intimidating world of stocks, shares, pensions and investments they make it understandable, relatable and simple. The ethical ethos is also a huge plus point in securing both a financial and sustainable future.
Really great app – obviously you gain some you lose some as with any investment app, but the staff are so helpful and friendly and went above and beyond to answer my questions, plus the app is incredibly easy to use and well laid out, not to mention there’s referral bonuses for inviting friends!
Customer service is excellent. I find the website and app a bit limited.
Down nearly 12%. The app is fine, of course, investments are long-term term and there is a social good element, but ultimately it has to perform.
At first glance the interface looks really slick but the UX is confusing to say the least… some parts are like Instagram stories, sometimes you swipe to go backwards, sometimes you have to click an arrow, sometimes you have to tap for more info. Focus groups with a fresh set of eyes are 100% needed to make this more user-friendly. There’s also not a lot of info up front but immediately asks for lots of personal information. Slightly disappointing as a glimpse into the dashboard and further info allows you to feel more comfortable giving this up, which this doesn’t do and then if you want to stop putting info in, you can’t even go back! There are also a few minor glitches so makes you less trusting to input so much info. Great idea though and I hope they fix these UX issues as I’m sure this could be a hit. There should also be an option to invest on your own, I wasn’t expecting to have it all picked out and I had to pick from 3 options, slightly misleading there as I was hoping it wasn’t going to be like every other ‘low risk/medium risk/high risk we’ve done it all for you’ type of app.
Once this comes back up so I haven’t lost quite so much I’m out! Constant excuses from the team about why!
The Deep Dive
Investment funds used to conjure up images of men in 80s pinstriped suits shouting “buy” and “sell” at each – Wolf of Wall Street characters who care little for anything except money. However, over the last 5 to 10 years, a new wave of investment apps has targeted a new wave of investors – many of whom are keen to make their money work for them and the planet.
Enter Circa5000 – an investment platform focused on ethical and impact investing. It offers users the opportunity to invest in funds that align with their personal values from green energy to economic empowerment.
With its commitment to transparency and positive societal impact, Circa5000 has quickly garnered attention in the fintech space. The company was founded in the UK in 2018 by Matt Latham and Tom McGillycuddy as “Tickr”. However, in 2022 it rebranded to “Circa5000”. The name reflects their concern for the future, referencing what the world will be like around the year 5000.
🏦 A wide variety of accounts are offered.
Circa5000 has 4 different accounts that you can choose from:
Stocks & Shares ISA:
- The key benefit of an ISA is its tax efficiency; any capital gains or dividends earned within the ISA are free from UK tax.
- There is an annual limit to how much you can contribute to an ISA, which is currently set at £20,000.
- You cannot contribute to more than one Stocks & Shares ISA in the same tax year.
General Investment Account (GIA):
- A General Investment Account is a standard, taxable investment account.
- Unlike an ISA, there are no annual contribution limits, but any capital gains or income earned may be subject to UK tax, depending on your circumstances.
- A GIA may be suitable for investors who have already maxed out their ISA contributions for the year or for those who prefer more flexibility without the constraints of an ISA.
Junior Stocks & Shares ISA:
- A Junior ISA is a tax-free investment account for children under 18, designed to encourage long-term savings for a child’s future.
- The account is opened by a parent or guardian but is in the child’s name. The child can take control of the account at 16 but cannot withdraw funds until they turn 18.
- Like adult ISAs, there’s an annual limit to how much can be contributed to a JISA, and the funds grow free from UK tax.
- Upon turning 18, the JISA converts into an adult ISA, and the young adult gains full access to the funds.
Pension (Self-Invested Personal Pension – SIPP):
- Circa5000 also offers a SIPP, which is a personal pension scheme allowing individuals to make their own investment decisions from a range of approved investments.
- Contributions to a SIPP are eligible for tax relief, and the investments grow tax-free until retirement.
- There are annual and lifetime allowances for contributions to consider, which can affect the tax relief received.
Opening an Account
🚪 Opening an account is a doddle.
Opening an account was pretty simple when we tested it. You will have to do this via the app however as Circa5000 doesn’t have a way to complete signup via desktop.
Once downloaded, you can select the option to sign up. Firstly you’ll be asked to choose your account type. Do remember that if you’re selecting a stocks and shares ISA you will only be able to open one of these a year (so if you’re just wanting to experiment with the platform then go for the General Investment Account).
You’ll then be asked to choose you’re level of risk (which is used to create your portfolio). The options are:
Adventurous: Designed for investors who are willing to accept higher levels of risk in pursuit of potentially higher returns. With this selected, less of your money will go into green and government bonds and more will go into the themed funds (more on these below).
Cautious: Here less of your money goes into the funds and more into bonds.
Balanced: A middle option between adventurous and cautious.
Once done you get a breakdown of your portfolio but, should you choose to, you can select an option to manually adjust how your funds are allocated (see the middle screenshot below). If you do this, you will be given the option to manually split your fund across the following assets:
These are prepackaged collections of stocks that you can invest in. Circa5000 has created them around various themes so you can choose to invest in the areas that matter to you without having to pick individual stocks. The funds on offer are:
- Clean Water & Waste
- Green Energy & technology
- Health & Wellbeing
- Social & Economic Empowerment
- Sustainable Food & Biodiversity
Simply put, a bond is a loan that you give to a company or government. Again, Circa5000 have packaged these up and give you a choice of what percentage of your money to allocate to:
- Green Bonds
- Government Bonds
Speaks for itself!
Once you’re happy with your allocation, you will then be asked how much you want to put in your account. You have the choice to go for a one-off contribution and a monthly recurring contribution. The latter is good for those looking to build up their savings over a long period.
Lastly, we needed to enter personal details and documents to get our account approved. The app asked for standard info like name, address and email – but you will also need to know your National Insurance number and have ID on hand to take a picture of. In our tests, this was all approved within 10 minutes, but it did then take a couple of days for the app to update with how much we had invested and performance to date.
💷 It’s reasonably cheap for those who have large funds.
Circa5000 charges a monthly subscription fee of £1 (except on its pensions) and a yearly fee of 0.45% of the value of your portfolio. Both are taken out of your account automatically each month.
Additionally, the funds you invest in also have their own charges – these are between 0.24% and 0.49%.
So overall each year you’ll be paying a maximum of 0.94% of the value of your fund plus £12 in subscription fees.
📲 Clean and simple – but may be too simple?
The app is straightforward. You have a simple account overview page which gives you a graphical representation of how your fund is doing (see the left screenshot). You can also see performance split out by investment type as well as how much you currently have allocated in each bucket (middle and right screenshots).
There is also an explore section that features lots of guides and updates on the latest performance of the funds (see the “Is it good for beginners?” section).
Apart from this, the rest of the app is just account management such as updating your details and changing your payment schedule or method. All of which is easy to do due to the app’s intuitive (and pretty) design.
What has past performance been like?
📉 Recent performance has not been encouraging.
This is where things get a little bit iffy. We’ve broken down the return you would have achieved if you chose each fund 1, 3 or 5 years ago (updated November 2023):
Most of the funds did well across 2020 and parts of 2021. However, the pandemic hangover has made performance more sluggish with all funds except one losing money over the last 3 years. This performance is not uncommon given the difficult macroeconomic environment of the past few years. However, with bank accounts offering 4% interest you will need to take a view as to whether these funds can return to their stellar winning ways as the market gets stronger or if you’re better off holding your cash for now.
How good is customer service?
☎️ Digital first, but you can still speak to a human.
The customer support is great. They offer an in-app chat service. It advises that you’ll typically get a reply within the hour but in our test it was quicker than this.
You can also call them. We were taken aback by this as most finance startups don’t allow you to speak to a real live person. We tested the service and were pleasantly surprised to be able to get through to a friendly adviser in less than 30 seconds.
Email is another option.
There is also a comprehensive help centre online if you want to try to resolve your query yourself.
Is it good for beginners?
🙂 It’s easy to use, provides simple options and has decent educational materials.
Circa5000 has a stripped-back offering of 5 funds and two types of bonds so the hard (and stressful) work of picking stocks has been largely done for you. The ability to just pick one of three risk profiles also makes it easy for anyone who just wants to follow a long-term “set and forget” strategy.
The app also has an explore tab which offers info on the funds as well as a series called “Investing Deconded”. We thought initially this might be a bit of an afterthought, but it actually provides very well-written bite-size explainers into how investments work, how markets behave and investment principles.
Is it safe?
🦺 Yes – it’s a highly regulated service.
Circa5000 is regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. Being regulated by the FCA means that Circa5000 must comply with strict rules and regulations designed to protect consumers. This includes requirements around financial transparency, fair treatment of customers, and the security of client funds. FCA rules require that firms keep client money separate from their own funds. This is known as ‘ring-fencing’ and helps to protect client money if the firm faces financial difficulties.
It is also covered by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS). This means that if Circa5000 were to go out of business, investors would be able to get their money back up to £85,000 per person.
So in conclusion, is it a good platform?
For those wanting a simple and ethical way to invest money, Circa5000 could be a good choice. However, as the last 3 years have shown, there are never any guarantees that the value of your investments will increase.