Investment statistics: What percentage of the UK population invests in the stock market?

Just over 3% of Brits are invested in stocks and shares ISAs, but what else do we know?

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All investing should be regarded as longer term. The value of your investments can go up and down, and you may get back less than you invest. Capital is at risk.

Investing in stocks and shares may seem a bit “wolf of wall street” to some, but just how much of the UK’s population is invested? We take a look at the breakdown of who’s investing, how they’re doing it and what they’ve invested in.

Quick overview

  • 2.2 million people in the UK (that’s just over 3%) were subscribed to a stocks & shares ISA account in 2019.
  • 13.5% of UK shares are owned by individuals (the rest is owned by institutions like banks and investment firms).
  • 73% of men are considering investing, while 61% of women are.
  • Of those with a stocks & shares ISA, 43.5% are women.
  • The average length of time that people hold onto their shares for has dropped by 92% to 0.8 years since 1980.
  • The total value of all stocks traded in the world in 2019 was $60.36 trillion (£45.75 trillion).
  • The London Stock Exchange (LSE) average market capitalisation in 2020, so far, is £3.29 trillion.

Who owns UK shares?

Shares in the UK are traded on the London Stock Exchange (LSE). These shares are available to buy by any individual or company around the world. So who owns the most?

  • The number of UK shares owned by individuals has been increasing, with individuals now owning 13.5%.
  • The majority of shares are owned by people or businesses overseas, at 54.9%.
Owner 2018 2016 2014 2012
Rest of the world 54.90% 53.90% 53.70% 53.30%
Individuals 13.50% 12.30% 12.40% 10.60%
Unit trusts 9.60% 9.50% 9.10% 9.50%
Other financial institutions 8.10% 8.10% 7.10% 6.60%
Insurance companies 4.00% 4.90% 5.90% 6.20%
Private non-financial companies 2.60% 2.20% 2.00% 2.30%
Pension funds 2.40% 3.00% 3.00% 4.70%
Banks 2.10% 1.80% 1.40% 1.90%
Investment trusts 1.40% 2.10% 1.80% 1.70%
Public sector 0.90% 1.10% 2.60% 2.50%
Charities 0.50% 1.00% 1.10% 0.60%

Who is and who isn’t buying stocks and shares?

The risky world of stocks and shares isn’t for everyone, so who is and who isn’t buying shares in the UK?

  • According to our 2020 survey,33% of Brits owns shares.
  • 2.2 million people in the UK were subscribed to a stocks & shares ISA account in 2019.
  • Only 43.5% of these ISAs were held by women (957,000).
  • While 56.5% of stocks & shares ISAs were held by men (1.25 million).
  • The average stocks & shares ISA account is worth £27,000.
  • Men have slightly more money in their stocks & shares ISAs, at £29,500 compared to £25,800 for women.

Coronavirus and investing

After COVID-19 hit the world and made most of us housebound, many people used their time to invest, or at least to consider it. The results from a Finder survey done in May 2020 revealed that 20% of Brits thought the pandemic was a good time to invest, while equally as many thought to wait a bit longer.

Opinion Percent
No change in opinion 46.70%
Already own shares 33.40%
More likely to invest 20.40%
Less likely to invest 19.55%

The generation most likely to invest

While share trading was once the preserve of an elite minority, the democratisation of trading via online trading and investing apps is leading to a huge number of people now considering investing. Finder’s survey shows that three quarters of both generation Z and millennials (75% and 74%) already have or would consider investing during or after the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite being the generation that you might typically associate with share trading, only 60% of baby boomers said that they would consider investing in the future, while the figure drops to just 41% for the silent generation.

Generation Percentage
Postmillennial/Generation Z (Born after 1996) 75%
Millennials (Born 1981-1996) 74%
Generation X (Born 1965-1980) 69%
Boomers (Born 1946-1964) 60%
Silent (Born 1928-1945) 41%

Reasons to invest

The most popular reason for investing overall (55%) was due to the fact that savings accounts offer poor interest rates. 33% are intrigued by companies that do well and would be more likely to invest if they saw one doing well. 22% found that it was a good time to get involved in investing while many companies aren’t doing well.

Reason to invest Percent
I think savings account interest rates are poor 54.90%
I want to earn dividend income 51.38%
I would invest if I saw that a company was doing well 33.43%
I have easy access to investing platforms 28.87%
I want to invest in ethical companies 27.30%
I would invest if I saw that a company wasn't doing well 22.21%
More people appear to be investing now and I want to get involved 16.68%

Generational: Reasons to invest

Why is the interest in investing higher now than before? Fundamental shifts are happening in retail investing: younger generations seem to be embracing the idea as it becomes more accessible via apps.

Of those who are planning to invest, over a quarter of both generation Z and millennials (28% and 26%) say the market crash has made them more likely to invest over the next 12 months. This is almost three times higher than the silent generation (10%) and significantly higher than baby boomers (16%).

Many generation Z and millennials said that dedicated platforms and apps had made them more likely to invest (27% and 32% respectively).

Generation It's more accessible due to apps The apps are cheaper I want to invest while prices are cheaper
Postmillennial/Generation Z (Born after 1996) 27% 17% 25%
Millennials (Born 1981-1996) 32% 24% 23%
Generation X (Born 1965-1980) 16% 11% 12%
Boomers (Born 1946-1964) 11% 8% 10%
Silent (Born 1928-1945) 8% 9% 4%

Millennials are also the group most attracted to dividends; 42% cited them as a reason to invest. Freetrade’s Viktor Nebehaj says, “We’ve noticed that the vast majority of those investing in [dividend stocks] are millennials. They really, really love dividends.”

Why aren’t women investing in shares?

What is causing fewer women than men to invest in the UK? Research from Scottish Friendly suggests that 2.6 million women have been put off investing by the number of funds available to them.

  • 43% of women say they haven’t invested because there are too many funds to choose from.
  • 70% say getting back their original investment is more important than achieving big financial gains.
  • Of the women surveyed, 40% were unaware you could save in more than one type of ISA in the same tax year.

Investor behaviour

The stock market is in constant transition, and over time, investor behaviour has changed.

  • Investors are now holding onto their shares for 0.8 years on average before selling them. In 1980, the average was 9.7 years, representing a decline of 91.75%.
  • What method has worked out the best so far in 2020? We decided to start the year with £1,000* placed in some of the most popular investments from last year, in the best savings account available on Finder, and under our mattress. Follow our live tracker to see which method is currently winning.

Fintech is quietly revolutionising retail investing in much the same way that challengers like Revolut, Monzo and Starling Bank have transformed banking – by breaking down the biggest barriers to entry: ease-of-use and cost.

Historically, the share market has been one of the greatest creators of wealth for people around the world, but it’s been limited to those that have access.”

Matt Leibowitz, CEO of Stake

The aptly-named Robinhood was the first to offer commission-free trading for US retail investors in 2015, and this has since been replicated by other disruptors, primarily as a way to attract new customers.

Top direct platforms by assets under
administration (AUA), September 2019

1. Hargreaves Lansdown (£98.4 billion)
2. interactive investor (£30.2 billion)
3. Fidelity Personal Investing (£18.8 billion)
4. Halifax Share Dealing (£13.5 billion)
5. Barclays Smart Investor (£12.8 billion)
6. AJ Bell YouInvest (£11.1 billion)

Top 5 most downloaded trading apps,
March-April 2020

1. Trading 212
2. Plus500
3. Plum
4. Hargreaves Lansdown
5. Coinbase

The drop in fees has been accompanied by an “appification” of investing platforms, both among established platforms like Hargreaves Lansdown, AJ Bell and Fidelity, and challengers like Trading 212, Degiro and eToro. The fast-growing challengers still have a long way to go to catch the incumbents, but their influence is changing the whole market.

The next big challenge is engaging a new audience, and it seems the time is right. A survey we ran in 2018 showed that only 22% of Brits owned stocks and shares and 49% had no plans to invest. In 2020, 33% said they owned shares and only 33% said they had no plans to invest. In the space of two years, we’ve seen the proportion of Brits who invest leap by 11 percentage points. This is likely to increase, but it will take work.

Our biggest competitor is not Hargreaves Lansdown, it’s the notion that you should not bother investing. It’s not understanding investing as a lifestyle choice.”

Viktor Nebehaj, co-founder of Freetrade

Total value of global stocks traded

  • The total value of all stocks traded globally in 2019 was £45.75 trillion ($60.36 trillion).
  • That is almost eight times more than it was 30 years ago (1989) when the total value of stocks globally was £5.84 trillion ($7.70 trillion).
Year Stocks traded, total value (current USD) Stocks traded, total value (current GBP)
2019 $60,359,038,281,801 £45,750,883,477,801
2018 $68,212,641,585,402 £51,703,749,856,261
2017 $77,572,857,686,254 £58,798,597,096,169
2016 $77,493,782,888,294 £58,738,660,059,886
2015 $99,791,340,588,406 £75,639,740,547,860
2014 $70,483,958,994,908 £53,425,360,755,001
2013 $61,286,805,204,694 £46,454,111,322,249
2012 $54,997,044,590,000 £41,686,604,861,284
2011 $68,918,259,024,885 £52,238,593,057,423
2010 $66,233,569,912,263 £50,203,655,088,527
2009 $62,874,317,258,320 £47,657,412,121,144
2008 $83,760,942,217,151 £63,489,035,220,814
2007 $88,442,265,110,000 £67,037,379,665,813
2006 $57,771,737,640,000 £43,789,763,924,630
2005 $44,705,497,170,000 £33,885,828,039,419
2004 $35,538,330,510,000 £26,937,308,221,639
2003 $28,500,585,040,000 £21,602,844,948,034
2002 $27,299,462,661,000 £20,692,419,408,322
2001 $33,392,794,550,000 £25,311,037,020,215
2000 $45,903,422,080,000 £34,793,829,964,776
1999 $30,698,872,210,000 £23,269,100,458,864
1998 $21,653,191,380,000 £16,412,664,349,021
1997 $17,390,230,970,000 £13,181,429,880,410
1996 $12,228,461,430,000 £9,268,916,966,250
1995 $9,912,788,370,000 £7,513,685,415,904
1994 $8,636,010,490,000 £6,545,914,595,200
1993 $7,215,827,794,000 £5,469,445,935,468
1992 $5,042,580,130,000 £3,822,169,844,357
1991 $5,062,606,550,000 £3,837,349,450,162
1990 $6,214,913,880,000 £4,710,774,207,849
1989 $7,700,290,630,000 £5,836,658,591,437
1988 $6,283,431,898,000 £4,762,709,426,614
1987 $6,838,576,490,000 £5,183,497,369,314
1986 $4,091,121,090,000 £3,100,983,872,677
1985 $2,471,367,510,000 £1,873,244,673,862
1984 $1,746,756,790,000 £1,324,004,964,927

London Stock Exchange (UK) trading: Market value

The London Stock Exchange (LSE) is the main stock exchange in the UK and the biggest in Europe. The total market value of companies trading on the London Stock Exchange fluctuates over time. Since 2015, the highest total market value of London Stock Exchange trading came in December 2016 at £4.58 trillion.

Following this, the London Stock Exchange has been falling in market value. In particular, the London Stock Exchange has taken a nosedive during 2020, due in most part to a mass selling of shares generated by the concerns surrounding the coronavirus pandemic. Since July 2019, the London Stock Exchange has seen a fall of £950 billion (-23.3%).

Date London Stock Exchange (UK) trading: Market value
Jul 2020 £3,117,241,000,000
Jun 2020 £3,268,833,000,000
May 2020 £3,207,470,000,000
Apr 2020 £3,083,863,000,000
Mar 2020 £3,002,421,000,000
Feb 2020 £3,549,254,000,000
Jan 2020 £3,833,213,000,000
Dec 2019 £3,925,475,000,000
Nov 2019 £3,913,087,000,000
Oct 2019 £3,851,289,000,000
Sep 2019 £4,015,945,000,000
Aug 2019 £3,931,404,000,000
Jul 2019 £4,065,240,000,000
Jun 2019 £3,967,330,000,000
May 2019 £3,827,820,000,000
Apr 2019 £4,013,707,000,000
Mar 2019 £3,939,888,000,000
Feb 2019 £3,868,988,000,000
Jan 2019 £3,800,088,000,000
Dec 2018 £3,786,522,000,000
Nov 2018 £3,881,760,000,000
Oct 2018 £3,994,953,000,000
Sep 2018 £4,195,035,000,000
Aug 2018 £4,156,246,000,000
Jul 2018 £4,272,837,000,000
Jun 2018 £4,213,177,000,000
May 2018 £4,223,066,000,000
Apr 2018 £4,200,906,000,000
Mar 2018 £3,948,954,000,000
Feb 2018 £4,062,972,000,000
Jan 2018 £4,188,250,000,000
Dec 2017 £4,234,741,000,000
Nov 2017 £4,094,143,000,000
Oct 2017 £4,185,550,000,000
Sep 2017 £3,985,769,000,000
Aug 2017 £4,005,050,000,000
Jul 2017 £3,956,942,000,000
Jun 2017 £4,053,633,000,000
May 2017 £4,319,539,000,000
Apr 2017 £4,225,834,000,000
Mar 2017 £4,274,500,000,000
Feb 2017 £4,352,432,000,000
Jan 2017 £4,581,856,000,000
Dec 2016 £4,582,465,000,000
Nov 2016 £4,352,493,000,000
Oct 2016 £4,391,835,000,000
Sep 2016 £4,383,843,000,000
Aug 2016 £4,350,093,000,000
Jul 2016 £4,264,649,000,000
Jun 2016 £4,069,373,000,000
May 2016 £3,921,798,000,000
Apr 2016 £3,945,707,000,000
Mar 2016 £3,891,721,000,000
Feb 2016 £3,879,397,000,000
Jan 2016 £3,823,464,000,000
Dec 2015 £3,957,880,000,000
Nov 2015 £4,040,399,000,000
Oct 2015 £4,001,288,000,000
Sep 2015 £3,828,897,000,000
Aug 2015 £3,934,082,000,000
Jul 2015 £4,200,193,000,000
Jun 2015 £4,200,608,000,000
May 2015 £4,361,595,000,000
Apr 2015 £4,335,386,000,000
Mar 2015 £4,260,061,000,000
Feb 2015 £4,239,613,000,000
Jan 2015 £4,094,639,000,000

UK Foreign Direct Investment

Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) is an investment made by a firm or individual in one country into business interests located in another country. So how much money has been invested by the UK and into the UK?

  • Inward FDI fell from £80.6 billion in 2017 to £49.4 billion in 2018.
  • The USA accounted for the most FDI into the UK, contributing £39.5 billion (80%).
  • Outward FDI totalled £6.3 billion in 2018, down from £99.5 billion in 2017.
  • The UK’s highest overall investment was in the Netherlands (£5.4 billion) followed by Hong Kong (£3.9 billion).

Sources used

Click here for more research. For all media enquiries, please contact:

Matt Mckenna
UK Communications Manager
T: +44 20 8191 8806

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