Investing in stocks and shares has seen a surge in popularity over the last few years thanks to the rise of fee-free trading apps and interest in ‘meme’ stocks. We look into just how many people in the UK invest, with breakdowns of who is investing, why they’re doing it and what they have invested in.
33% of Brits own shares
Two thirds (67%) of the population say they plan to buy stocks and shares in the future
75% of Gen Z plan to buy stocks and shares in the future, compared to just 41% of the Silent Generation
13.5% of UK shares are owned by individuals
2.2 million people in the UK (that’s just over 3%) were subscribed to a stocks & shares ISA account in 2019
Investors now hold onto their shares 0.8 years on average before selling them. In 1980, the average was 9.7 years, representing a decline of 91.75%.
Men are currently ore likely to invest, with 73% planning to do so vs 61% of women
How many people own stocks and shares?
Our 2020 survey found that a third of Brits (33%) said they owned stocks and shares. This is an increase of 50% since 2018, when 22% of Brits said they owned shares. This percentage looks likely to grow as well, with 2 in 3 people (67%) saying they plan to buy stocks and shares at some point in the future. Despite these high figures, only 2.2 million people (5%) were subscribed to a stocks and shares ISA, meaning many investors could be missing out on the tax benefits that ISA’s bring.
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.
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.
I would invest if I saw that a company was doing well
I have easy access to investing platforms
I want to invest in ethical companies
I would invest if I saw that a company wasn't doing well
More people appear to be investing now and I want to get involved
Generational: why do people 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).
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.”
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, and in the best savings account available on Finder. Follow our live tracker to see which method is currently on top and use our investment calculator to explore possible returns when investing in these methods.
Individuals vs Companies: 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%.
Rest of the world
Other financial institutions
Private non-financial companies
Google search volume for ‘buy shares’
A good way of following the rise in share trading interest is to look at the popularity of Google searches. Over the last 5 years, the volume of searches in the UK for the term ‘buy shares’ has risen 165%. The most significant rise occurred between 2019 and 2020, when search interest grew by 129%. So far in 2021, the interest has held fairly steady, with just a 2% decline from the 2020 high.
Data from Degiro revealed that the most popular stock for UK investors in 2020 was Tesla, thanks to its meteoric rise in value and charismatic founder, Elon Musk. This was followed by another EV company, Nio, and then Apple. The top 5 stocks were all American or Chinese, but the following 5 are all listed on the London Stock Exchange, with IAG (British Airways and other airlines) being the most popular British stock following its dramatic fall in value due to Covid.
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.
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. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. If you’re not sure which investments are right for you, please seek out a financial adviser. Capital at risk.
Charlie Barton is a publisher at Finder. He specialises in banking and investments products, including banking apps, current accounts, share-dealing platforms and stocks and shares ISAs. Charlie has a first-class degree from the London School of Economics, and in his spare time enjoys long walks on the beach.
From 2018 to 2021, over $2.5 billion has been invested into cannabis startups. The global legal cannabis industry is expected to reach $43 billion in 2025. Read on for the financial forecast of this industry.
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