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 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.

Quick overview

  • 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.

Sitting man

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.”

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.

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%

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.

2016 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021 (first 6 months)
Search interest 13 16 16 16 36 35

Most traded stocks in the UK

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.

1 Tesla Motors Inc
2 NIO Inc
3 Apple Inc
4 Virgin Galactic Holdings Inc
5 Microsoft Corporation
6 International Consolidated Airlines Group
7 Rolls-Royce Holdings
8 easyJet
9 Cineworld Group
10 Lloyds Banking Group

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%

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
matt.mckenna@finder.com@MichHutchison/in/matthewmckenna2

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