More than half of investors looking to buy shares over the next 12 months admit to preferring well-known UK brands such as supermarkets and banks, according to a new study* commissioned by Investec Wealth & Investment. But by opting for household names over lower profile brands, investors risk overlooking the majority of listed companies and failing to build a diversified portfolio that could better suit their investment needs.

According to the survey, almost a third of investors said they will only buy well-known companies and 35% feel more confident doing so – despite only around 40% of FTSE 100 constituents arguably being considered household names. Almost half those surveyed said they would retain their stake even if the shares performed poorly.

IW&I’s analysis of levels of retail share ownership among key FTSE 100 stocks underlines this tendency to back the well-known brands: for example, Marks & Spencer estimates that around 30%** of its shares are held by private investors, much larger than the 12% of quoted shares owned directly by UK individuals reported in the ONS’ most recent analysis of UK share ownership***. The survey suggests that it is more than the share price alone that motivates investors to keep hold of their stocks. Nearly a third are more likely to continue holding shares if they bought them as new listings while a fifth would continue to retain shares they have inherited.

‘By simply focusing on well-known brands, many investors are potentially missing out on superior investment opportunities.’

Furthermore, one in 10 admitted to holding shares largely because of the perks they such as discounts or vouchers, even though the number of these is diminishing. The research further revealed that two-fifths of investors buy shares in a company when they understand what it does, and one in five prefer to invest in firms whose products and services they use.

Guy Ellison, head of UK Equity Research at Investec Wealth & Investment, said: “It’s understandable that many retail investors will be drawn to companies they know and have heard of, or see regularly on the High Street. However, relatively few leading companies in the UK are household names and by simply focusing on well-known brands, many investors are potentially missing out on superior investment opportunities elsewhere, while leaving themselves vulnerable to an over-concentration in certain sectors which are familiar such as retail, travel and leisure and banking. 

“Our research underlines how sentimentality can come at a price. Successful investing requires taking a dispassionate view of your holdings and many people find this is better achieved by appointing a professional to do this on their behalf.”


* Source: Consumer Intelligence among 1,026 adults in February 2017 on behalf of Investec Wealth & Investment
** M&S 2016 annual report