Who controls the businesses of the UK?

The typical business owner is 51, British and male

Chris Lilly

by , Credit & Loans Publisher

You need a lot of things to start your own business, from a new idea and a lot of courage to great employees and a good business loan to help you make it true. More often than not, luck also plays its part. There are thousands of business owners in the UK, but who are they exactly?

We analysed data submitted on over 5 million people to the Companies House, People with Significant Control (PSC) register. As the name suggests, this register includes individuals, companies and legal persons who own a large portion of a company, or otherwise have the right to significantly influence its actions. How do the individuals in this sample compare to the rest of the UK population?

The average age of UK business owners

Their ages approximately follow a bell-shaped curve. The most common age is 51, accounting for 2.92% of the sample, compared to only 1.45% of the general population. The average age is a little lower, at 49 years old. People between 37 and 67 years of age are also overrepresented in business owners, meaning you’re more likely to find them in a sample of company shareholders than in a random sample of people.

Age distribution of business owners vs. the general population

Age General population
2 1.22%
3 1.24%
4 1.28%
5 1.29%
6 1.27%
7 1.25%
8 1.25%
9 1.24%
10 1.20%
11 1.16%
12 1.13%
13 1.11%
14 1.08%
15 1.09%
16 1.12%
17 1.15%
18 1.18%
19 1.21%
20 1.24%
21 1.25%
22 1.28%
23 1.31%
24 1.35%
25 1.41%
26 1.41%
27 1.38%
28 1.39%
29 1.38%
30 1.38%
31 1.38%
32 1.36%
33 1.35%
34 1.36%
35 1.37%
36 1.37%
37 1.35%
38 1.27%
39 1.22%
40 1.22%
41 1.24%
42 1.27%
43 1.31%
44 1.36%
45 1.41%
46 1.42%
47 1.42%
48 1.44%
49 1.46%
50 1.46%
51 1.47%
52 1.47%
53 1.45%
54 1.42%
55 1.38%
56 1.33%
57 1.28%
58 1.26%
59 1.22%
60 1.17%
61 1.13%
62 1.11%
63 1.11%
64 1.08%
65 1.07%
66 1.08%
67 1.11%
68 1.14%
69 1.22%
70 1.13%
71 0.96%
72 0.94%
73 0.91%
74 0.83%
75 0.74%
76 0.71%
77 0.71%
78 0.70%
79 0.66%
80 0.62%
81 0.59%
82 0.54%
83 0.50%
84 0.47%
85 0.44%
86 0.41%
87 0.37%
88 0.32%
89 0.28%
90 0.24%
91 0.15%

The male-to-female ratio

It’ll come as a shock to no one that business owners are more likely to be male than female. Of all the people whose gender could be identified from their title (such as Mr. or Mrs.), 72.92% were male and 27.08% were female. In other words, the people controlling a company are almost three times as likely to be a man than a woman. The UK population is 49.5% male and 50.5% female, which means women are 51.2% underrepresented among business owners.

Percentage of male and female business owners

Population % of total
Male 72.92%
Female 27.08%

Nationalities

The majority of business owners in the UK, by far, are UK nationals, at 84.72%. The most common nationalities making up the remaining 15.28% are shown below. All of these except for Poland are overrepresented compared to their prevalence in the general population.

Top 15 foreign nationalities of UK business owners

Nationality Business owners General population
Irish 1.37% 0.53%
Polish 1.12% 1.52%
Indian 1.05% 0.51%
Chinese 0.88% 0.22%
Italian 0.81% 0.41%
Romanian 0.80% 0.55%
German 0.70% 0.21%
French 0.61% 0.27%
American 0.54% 0.21%
Pakistani 0.47% 0.29%
Australian 0.39% 0.13%
Nigerian 0.36% 0.16%
Bulgarian 0.33% 0.14%
Spanish 0.30% 0.27%
Dutch 0.29% 0.14%

How many people control each business?

Almost three-quarters of the companies had only one listed PSC, meaning the majority of them have only one person with significant control. The remaining companies have more than one person with significant control, however, the number of companies declines as the number of PSCs increases. For instance, there were only 0.14% of companies that had six or more people in control. The highest number was 63, but as you can see this is far from the norm.

Number of people in control Percentage
1 73.55%
2 22.44%
3 2.99%
4 0.71%
5 0.16%
6+ 0.14%

The types of people with significant control

The vast majority of people with significant control are just that: people, accounting for 92.27% of the submissions in the register. 7.61% are corporate entities, and only 0.12% are legal persons.

Type Percentage
Individual 92.27%
Corporate entity 7.61%
Legal person 0.12%

Methodology

The full PSC dataset was downloaded from the Companies House site on 19 January 2018. People, companies and legal entities included in the dataset all fulfil at least one of the following criteria:
  • They hold over 25% of a company’s shares.
  • They hold 25% of a company’s voting rights.
  • They have the right to appoint or remove the majority of directors.
  • They have the right to exercise significant influence or control.
  • They have the right to exercise significant control over a company that meets any of the four previous conditions.

CSVs were produced counting up the information provided by each PSC. The data was then cleared of very low-frequency responses that were clearly a mistake, such as the person who entered “Douglas” as their title.

Age was calculated from the date of birth by subtracting its year from 2018 (which, since this calculation was done on January, will be accurate the majority of the time). The age distribution of the general population was taken from the ONS, adding two years to each age, as two years have passed since that dataset was uploaded.

The gender ratio was calculated from all titles with a definite gender. All gender neutral titles were left out.

The distribution of nationalities among the general population was sourced from the ONS, and combined with their estimate of the UK population for the same time period, to get the percentage of each nationality.

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2 Responses

  1. Default Gravatar
    louiseSeptember 25, 2018

    Is there any data available on the percentages of businesses which have been established under 2 years, 2-5 years, 6-9 years and 10 years and over?

    • Avatarfinder Customer Care
      JoshuaOctober 2, 2018Staff

      Hi Loise,

      Thanks for getting in touch with finder. I hope all is well with you. :)

      We currently don’t have that data. However, you may want to search this government website or search the Internet for more information.

      I hope this helps. Should you have further questions, please don’t hesitate to reach us out again.

      Have a wonderful day!

      Cheers,
      Joshua

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