How to set up a holding company

Discover what a holding company is, how to set one up and whether it could be worth doing.

A holding company doesn’t offer goods or services to the public, so what’s the point of having one?

What is a holding company?

A holding company is a parent business entity, usually a corporation, which owns one or several other businesses. The holding company doesn’t produce or sell goods or services. Its only purpose is to hold the controlling share of its subsidiary businesses.

Why set up a holding company?

By creating a holding company, you could potentially set up the different arms of your business as separate companies. These would be subsidiaries of your holding company.

A holding company could also help to separate certain assets from subsidiaries, such as equipment, property or trademarks.

Here are the key advantages of doing this:

  • Reduce your liability. Let’s imagine you owned an art gallery and also taught painting classes. By separating these arms into two subsidiaries of a holding company, you decrease the liabilities of each business. Now, if your art gallery goes into debt, creditors can only seek funds from the gallery business. They can’t take cash or assets away from your teaching business.
  • Encourage growth and innovation. Let’s now imagine you wanted to pump money into an innovative new service, such as “virtual reality” art. If this risky unknown venture was part of a single business, it might put off existing or potential investors. However, by using a holding company structure, you can launch the “virtual reality” service as a brand new business that has no impact on the profits of your existing companies. Investors in these proven companies would then have no reason to worry about this new venture.
  • Control your assets for less money. When you use a holding company structure, you can have a controlling interest in several companies without owning all the shares.
  • Tax exemptions. You can often pay less tax as a business owner by setting up a holding company structure, though you might want to take advice.

How to set up a holding company

The process of forming a holding company is no different to setting up any other limited company. When registering a business through Companies House you will need to provide a list of information, such as the company’s name, address and details of the director who will be responsible for making decisions.

Once your holding company is set up, you’ll have to transfer the ownership of your subsidiaries’ shares and assets to the holding company. A solicitor will be able to assist you with this process.

How much does it cost to set up a holding company?

As with any other limited company, it will cost £12 to register your limited company with Companies House online or £40 by post. On top of that, it’ll cost £170 to trademark your company name.

Setting up your holding company’s bank account

In order to ensure the holding company and its subsidiaries are separate, each business should have its own bank account. In terms of opening a business bank account, there is nothing especially unique about a holding company compared to its subsidiaries.

Each bank will have different requirements for opening an account and the information you need to provide will vary. A bank might want you to provide a full list of subsidiaries and give a full picture of the nature of business of each one.

Depending on the amount of turnover brought in by both the parent business and the subsidiaries, certain banks offer business accounts which may be more suited to your business’s needs.

There can be advantages to setting up a holding company but it can add a layer of complexity to your business so you may want to get advice from an accountant.”

Katherine Denham, award-winning personal finance expert

Pros and cons


  • Ring-fence your business arms and decrease your liabilities
  • Encourage growth and innovation
  • Control assets for less money
  • Pay less tax, in some cases


  • You’ll pay extra fees to set up the holding company
  • The process of transferring assets and shares can be complicated and expensive
  • When you sell a subsidiary of a holding company, this can create financial and structural complications

Bottom line

It might be a bit of an administrative hassle to set up a holding company, but if you have two separate business ventures, it could be worth doing.

A holding company could even save you tax, but it can get complicated so if you’re thinking of going down this route then you might want to get advice.

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The tax you need to pay depends on your individual circumstances and can change over time. This content is for information only - it's not tax advice. You're responsible for carrying out your own checks and for getting professional advice before making financial decisions.

Written by

Matthew Boyle

Matthew Boyle is a banking and mortgages publisher at Finder. He has a 7-year history of publishing helpful guides to assist consumers in making better decisions. In his spare time, you will find him walking in the Norfolk countryside admiring the local wildlife. See full profile

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