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

According to our 2020 survey, only a third of Brits own shares.

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).
  • The average stocks & shares ISA account is worth £27,000.
  • 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%.
  • The London Stock Exchange (LSE) market value experienced its sharpest decline in the last 5 years of 24% in the lead up to the first national lockdown (Dec 2019-Mar 2020).

Who is buying stocks and shares??

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

  • According to our 2020 survey, 33% of Brits own shares.
  • The most popular reason Brits gave for investing (55%) was because savings accounts offer poor interest rates.
  • Three quarters of Generation Z (75%) and Millennials (74%) said they would invest after the pandemic, while only 4 in 10 (41%) of the silent generation said they would.
  • Only 43.5% of these ISAs were held by women (957,000).
  • 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%

Why do people 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: 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).

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.”

Women in investing

What is causing fewer women than men to invest in the UK? See our women in investing page for the latest statistics.

IWD illustration

  • Of the 253 fund managers in the sample looked at by Finder, there were more men called Richard, David, Nick or James than there were women.
  • Around 4 in 10 women (39%) said they had money currently invested in some way (either a share, fund, ETF or private pension). This is compared to around 6 in 10 men (59%).
  • 79% of women aged 18-24 and 60% of women aged 25-34 said they currently hold at least one investment.
  • 35% of women aged 45-54 and 26% of women aged over 55 said they currently hold at least one investment.
  • There is at least one woman in a management role at 23% of “ethical” funds, compared to just 12% of regular funds.

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, 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.

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.

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

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
Jan 2021 £3,587,800,000,000
Dec 2020 £3,639,250,000,000
Nov 2020 £3,447,890,000,000
Oct 2020 £3,067,020,000,000
Sept 2020 £3,165,170,000,000
Aug 2020 £3,195,640,000,000
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

FTSE 100 performance

The Financial Times Stock Exchange 100 (FTSE 100) is the top 100 companies listed on the London Stock Exchange (LSE) and is often used as a gauge of the UK’s business economy. The FTSE 100 includes big names such as Barclays, Vodafone, easyJet and Sainsbury’s.

  • Over the course of 2020, the FTSE 100 fell by 14.34%, the biggest decline since the year of the financial crisis.
  • The FTSE 100’s record high was 7,877.45 on 22 May 2018.
  • The record low was 3,287.04 on 12 March 2003.
  • The FTSE 100 closed at 6,460.50 in 2020.

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%.
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%

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).

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.

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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