Many investors like the ability to buy shares. Our platform gives you access to trade in over 70 UK listed companies that have been approved for both Ethical and Sharia compliance.
Want to know more about shares? Take a look at the most commonly asked questions in our FAQs below to learn more about shares, stock market, why investing might work out, and why it might not, and how to get your head around the taxes surrounding shares. Simply click on the question to display the answer. If you have any questions that are not answered here, please contact us.
What are shares?
Also known as equities, a share represents a share of ownership in a company, and these shares are listed on a stock exchange. A company can raise money to finance its business by ‘going public’. Going public means being listed on the stock exchange and issuing shares to investors. By paying for the shares, each investor buys part ownership of the company’s business and become a shareholder in the company.
While owning shares in a business does not mean that the shareholder has direct control over the business's day to day operations, being a shareholder does entitle the possessor to an equal distribution in any profits, if any are declared in the form of dividends. When looking to buy shares, the aim is for the shares to grow in value over time; and also to benefit from a share in the profits of the company in the form of regular dividend payments. Shares give investors the opportunity for a steady income and capital growth, although neither of these is guaranteed.
The two main types of shares are ordinary shares (common shares) which entitle the shareholder to share in the earnings of the company as and when they occur, and to vote at the company's annual general meeting and other official meeting, and preference shares (preferred stock) which entitle the shareholder to a fixed periodic income (interest) but generally do not give voting rights. Preference shares are not accessible through our platform due to interest income element.
What is a shareholder?
The person who buys shares in a company is called a shareholder and has a claim on part of the company assets and earnings.
What are shareholder rights and benefits?
As a shareholder, you often need to make decisions about taking up various rights and benefits offered by the companies you have invested in. In each case, you should keep your investment goals and strategy in mind and decide whether to consult an adviser. Shareholder rights and benefits can include the following:
- Participation in annual general meetings
- Receiving reports and information
- Dividends and dividend reinvestment plans
- Further issues of shares
- Share buy-back, and
- Other corporate actions
By becoming a shareholder you agree to share in the risks associated with that company’s performance. All shareholders should be aware that the value of a share can fall to zero.
What is the difference between stocks and shares?
The stock of a company is sold in units called shares. A share is a unit of ownership, or equity, in a company or a corporation. Shares are one of the most traded financial instruments. If you buy a share of a company, you are buying a piece of the company. When you own more than one share in a company or several companies, these are called stocks, because ‘stock’ generally refers to a portfolio of shares. Alternatively put, stock is the capital raised by a company through the issue of shares and a share is a single unit of stock.
On the stock markets, shares are also referred to as equities - if you see the term ‘equities trading’, it is exactly the same as share trading.
What is stock market?
Stock market also known as equity market is one of the most vital components of a free market economy, as it provides companies with access to capital in exchange for giving investors a slice of ownership in the company. The stock market performs two separate market functions:
- Operating the primary market, where companies raise money by issuing shares to investors
- Operating the secondary market, where investors buy and sell those shares at prices determined by the market forces
Majority of countries have a stock market. You may have heard of stock markets like the London Stock Exchange (LSE), New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), or the Tokyo Stock Exchange. These organisations each perform essentially the same role, providing capital raising services and trading facilities.
The stock market makes it possible to invest small initial sums of money into large prominent companies, without taking the risk of starting a business or making the sacrifices that often accompany a high paying career. However, no investment is without risk; please understand the associated risks of investing in stock market, prior to setting up a trading account.
When is the stock market open for trading?
The London Stock Exchange is open Monday to Friday 8am - 4.30pm excluding Bank Holidays.
Where are UK shares listed?
The UK shares are listed on the London Stock Exchange (LSE). For more information on LSE, please visit the following link: http://www.londonstockexchange.com
What are dividends?
Dividends are the portion of corporate profits that are allocated to shareholders. When a company makes a profit, the management chooses whether to put this back into the business or pay it to shareholders as dividends.
Dividends can compensate for a share price that is not moving much, giving shareholders an income instead. Companies that are considered ‘high growth do not usually offer dividends as they reinvest profits to sustain their growth by expanding the business. The reward for shareholders in this case is a higher expected share price.
When are dividends paid out?
Every time a company pays a dividend, it must be officially declared by the board of directors. Dividends are generally issued half yearly or annually, although a company may occasionally decide to pay one-off special dividend.
What are possible share categories?
For simplicity, the shares can be categories as follows:
Income shares: pay larger dividends, compared to other types of shares, that can be used to generate income without selling shares, but the share price generally does not rise very quickly.
Blue chip shares: issued by companies with long histories of growth and stability. Blue chip shares usually pay regular dividends and generally maintain a fairly steady price trend.
Growth shares: issued by entrepreneurial companies experiencing a faster rate of growth that their general industries. These shares normally pay little or no dividend because the company needs most or all of its earnings to finance expansion.
Cyclical shares: issued by companies that are affected by general economic trends. The share prices tend to fall during periods of economic recession and rise during economic booms for example, mining, heavy machinery, and home building companies.
Defensive shares: the opposite of cyclical shares. Companies producing staples such as food, beverages and pharmaceuticals issue defensive shares. They typically maintain their value during economic downturns.
How to decide what to buy?
When it comes to deciding what shares to buy, the most important thing to consider is your investment goals. In particular, the performance goals you set for the share investments portion of your portfolio. For example, you might be aiming to achieve an average dividend yield of 4% p.a. and capital growth of 8% p.a. over the next 10 years. In that case, you could buy some shares that provide reliable dividends and the expectation of solid year-on-year growth.
Once you have opened an account with Simply Ethical, you will have access to the ‘stock screener’ tool, which allows screening of stocks based on set fundamental and technical parameters to enable you to narrow down a number of companies for your further due diligence and investing.
What do the terms ‘bid’ and ‘offer’ mean?
In share trading, the price you pay if you buy a share is called the offer price and the price you receive if you sell the share is called bid price. The offer price is always higher than the bid price, so it is the job of the stock exchange to facilitate buying and selling by coordinating these two prices. The difference between the bid and offer price is called the spread. The size of the spread is fairly reliable measure of the liquidity of the share. The narrower the spread, the more liquid the share is likely to be.
Why invest in shares?
Historically, over the longer term, shares have generally been a better performing asset than cash, bonds and property. However, please note that past performance is not necessarily an indicator of how well an asset will perform in the future.
What about risks of investing in shares?
Share prices can fluctuate suddenly, and sometimes very sharply as experienced during 2008/09 financial crises and this is why shares are considered a higher risk investment than cash, bonds and property. It is also the reason why they are more suitable as a longer term investment. In general, the longer you stay invested in the stock market the better you tend to do, as you are better positioned to ride out any fluctuations in the market.
Not all share investments carry an equal risk; the level of risk depends on the company you are looking to buy shares in. A small start up with an innovative product or those listed LSE Alternative Investment Market (AIM) will have a higher risk profile than a blue chip company, for instance, but the attraction of relatively small companies is that it may offer the potential for higher returns. Moreover, a small company may not pay out dividends, as it needs to reinvest any profits back in the company, whereas the larger, more established company may offer attractive dividend payouts. It is essential to understand your investment goals and risk profile before investing in shares. It is important to research any companies you intend to buy shares in to ensure they offer a suitable investment opportunity for you.
The value of shares may increase as company profits increase, or as a result of market expectation, but the opposite is also true. The value of a share may fall, and if a company collapses, you may lose all of your original investment. The risk of this happening depends on the profile of the particular company you want to invest in, but there is no certainty about the outcome of an investment in shares, unlike a deposit account where you are certain of getting your capital back and earning a fixed rate of return.
Why do share prices move up and down?
Share prices may fluctuate for a number reason, including the following:
A share price usually goes up when:
- Earnings are better than expected
- Launch of a new innovative product or an expansion into a new market by a company
- Positive change in company management, acquisition or merger
- When the economy is strong overall, shares are more likely to go up.
- If more people want to buy a share than sell it, the price will rise because the share is sought-after
A share price usually goes down when:
- Earnings are below market expectations
- If a company announced that there was a problem with a new highly anticipated product and its product launch was going to be delayed, the share price would likely go down because investors would be disappointed and expect less sales of the product.
- When there are events such as terrorist attack or a natural disaster, the share prices general fall.
- When the economy is weak and there are bad economic circumstances such as recession, shares of most companies will tend to go down.
- If more people want to sell a share than buy it, the price will fall
If the stock market falls do I lose money?
If the stock market falls, the value of your investments may also fall down. Hence, investing in shares should only be considered by those investing for long term.
Is there anyone who should not invest in shares?
Investing in shares is probably not right for you if you:
- Want to keep your original capital protected from fall in value.
- Are likely to need your money soon to meet your immediate day to day financial needs.
- Are hoping to make quick return. There is a much higher risk of losing your money through short term trading.
- Do not understand how the stock market works and the associated risks involved in investing in shares.
When do I have to pay tax on shares?
- Dividend income and tax – Dividend income is subject to tax. The first £5,000 (2017/18) of dividend income in each tax year will be tax-free. Sums above that will be taxed at 7.5% for basic rate taxpayers, 32.5% for higher rate taxpayers and 38.1% for additional rate taxpayers. These new tax rules came into effect on April 6, 2016. No tax will be deducted at source; taxpayers must use self-assessment to pay any tax due.
- Sale of shares and capital gains tax – If you dispose of an asset for more money than you bought it for, you are said to have made a capital gain, or in more familiar terms, a profit. The gain you make – not the amount of money you receive for the asset – is liable to tax at a rate of 10% for basic rate tax payers and 20% for higher rate & additional rate tax payers. Capital Gains Tax (CGT) applies to the disposal of stocks and shares. Before any tax is payable though, you have an annual tax free allowance for CGT, which is £11,300 for tax year 2017/18. However, the new CGT rates of 10% and 20% introduced for disposal on or after 6 April 2016 do not apply to transactions involving residential property or carried interest. CGT rates for these transactions remain at 18% and 28%.