The UK financial services sector is massive; contributing £173.6 billion to Gross Domestic Product in 2021. In 2022, it accounted for £10 in value for every £100 produced. This scale is reflected in the variety and number of stockbrokers that operate in the UK. But how many stockbrokers are there? Does anyone keep track of the number of firms that allow clients to buy shares and bonds?
Without a view of the size of the market, how could a website like ours help our audience compare the best stockbrokers in the UK or publish representative stockbroker reviews, which resulted in the winners below:
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In this article, we’ll share our research on how many different UK brokers service British investors.
The bottom line: How many UK stockbrokers are there?
From our original research, we conclude that there are 12,373 or 20,883 stockbrokers operating in the UK, depending on whether you include Appointed Representatives (ARs).
However, of this number, more than 99% of the market (as measured by the number of clients) is served by just 94 notable brokers.
Our sources of information:
The Office for National Statistics found that 53,000 individuals filled in their job title as ‘broker’ when completing a 2018 national survey of working adults.
However, this is not a very useful metric to use when assessing the number of firms that operate. Firstly, the term ‘broker’ is too broad and could include middlemen for property transactions. Secondly, a firm may employ 2 to 2,000 brokers, meaning that it is difficult to discern how many different firms operate from this stat alone.
Register of authorised firms
We could instead look at the number of firms authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority to carry out investment activities, such as:
- Managing investments
- Dealing in investments as an agent
In a 2021 report on consumer investments, the FCA shared that it labels 6,568 authorised firms as ‘consumer investment firms’, and 5,805 financial adviser firms. Both types of firms could neatly fall under the definition of ‘stockbroker’, so we combine both groups together and conclude that there are at least 12,373 stockbrokers in the UK.
This number grows further when you include Appointed Representatives (ARs) and unauthorised firms.
An AR is a firm that operates under the oversight (and license) of a fully authorised FCA registered firm, known as its ‘principal’ firm. An AR will enjoy much lower regulatory costs as they won’t directly interact with the FCA, or need to fill specified job roles required by the FCA Handbook.
ARs merely need to stick to the terms set by their principal. It is conceivable that a firm could outwardly appear to be an independent stockbroker, but may in fact be an appointed representative to save on overheads. Therefore it’s worth including ARs in our grand total.
Therefore, including appointed representatives, the total number of stockbrokers in the UK is 20,883.
FCA Consumer Investments: Strategy and Feedback Statement
An unauthorised firm is a company or individual that offers regulated financial services without registering with the FCA and complying with its rules. This is a criminal offence that carries a sentence of multiple years in prison.
Because they try to remain underneath the radar, either by cloning existing firms or pretending to be authorised, it’s not possible to accurately count the number of unregulated firms.
In the year ended March 2021, the FCA received 30,122 reports of unauthorised investment businesses – a 54% year-on-year increase. This resulted in 50 enforcement investigations. It is not possible to estimate how many investment firms exist that did not trigger a report or enforcement action.
FCA’s List of unauthorised firms & individuals
At the date of writing, the FCA has compiled a list of 10,717 unauthorised firms across the spectrum of all financial services. This can be found on the FCA’s list of unauthorised firms and individuals, which is updated periodically.
Our proprietary manual compilation
As the UK’s best source for stockbroker news and information, we at Financial-Expert.co.uk have compiled an accurate list of all notable stockbrokers.
We add new notable stockbrokers on a monthly basis when they meet our requirements, or contact us.
At the time of writing, our stockbroker comparison page features over 94 notable stockbrokers. This makes it (as far as we are aware), the most comprehensive list you’ll find on any UK website.
This list excludes micro firms – firms with fewer than 20 employees that serve a small client base. We are satisfied that 99% of the retail investment market is covered by the 94 notable firms.
How many stockbrokers are there in the UK?
In conclusion, there are 94 notable stockbrokers that offer share dealing services with a wide base of clients. If you were to pick 100 British investors at random, we estimate that 99 of those investors would entrust one of these 94 firms to facilitate their share dealing.
In terms of the wider market, including micro-firms and appointed representatives, this figure jumps to 20,883 at the time of writing, based upon FCA data.
If unauthorised firms are included, the figure would be higher, but we have a clear view that choosing an unregulated broker is never worth the risk.