Retail investors are much in focus and Boscobel collaborated with the pollsters, FindOutNow, to understand in detail who they are and what they want.
We uncovered quite a few myths and truths, relevant to policy makers, the investment industry and corporates raising capital or engaging with investors. You can find a link to the full report HERE.
Our estimate is that some 400,000 new investment accounts, bringing £20 billion of new inflows, have been opened in the UK during the pandemic. But this is an acceleration of a trend. According to the Office for National Statistics, the proportion of shares owned by individuals rose to 13.5% in 2018, up from a low of 10.2% in 2008.
The new generation of investors is younger (average age 37 compared to 48 for established investors); more likely to be female (41% compared to 30% of established investors) and more likely to live in a home with a mortgage or in rented accommodation. They are also more likely to have been furloughed.
While it is true they have a higher risk appetite than established investors, they have not been sucked into highly speculative investments to the same extent as their US peers. They are more likely to buy single stocks (35% compared to 28% for established investors), including Tesla and Amazon. But when asked a free text question about their investments, premium bonds are the favourite by a substantial margin.
We asked where they get their investment ideas and new investors are more likely to use social media (9% compared to 4% for established investors) and more likely to listen to friends and family (15% compared to 10% for established investors). However, both categories do follow the ideas of investment platforms and brokers plus specialist financial media.
The big lesson for corporates is that retail investors’ higher risk appetite is an important source of growth capital. According to Primary Bid, retail investors participated in 57 capital raises last year. In her column in the Financial Times, Merryn Somerset-Webb cited the research and made the very good point that retail investors have discovered that they, “have power and can use it to make companies behave as they want them to,” in relation to governance, environmental standards and boardroom pay, as well as business performance.
Interventions by central banks and Governments have helped drive global stocks to record highs, though the FTSE remains a laggard after several years of political uncertainty.
The challenge for the investment industry and for policy makers is to ensure that new investors channel their enthusiasm into sustainable long-term portfolios of diversified holdings, as opposed to gambling on fashionable but risky ideas.