Our easy-to-understand explanations of useful investment terms.
A type of unit in a unit trust where the income is reinvested automatically, increasing the unit price.
An individual fund manager or team make investment decisions for the fund, trying to outperform stock market indices by skilfully selecting winning stocks.
Alternative Investment Market (AIM)
A sub-market of the London Stock Exchange that gives much smaller companies access to cash. Also known as the ‘junior market’.
An American Depository Receipt, or ADR, represents ownership in the shares of a non-US company that trades in the financial markets. ADRs allow US investors to buy shares in foreign companies without engaging in the risk and expense that come with cross border and cross currency transactions.
The gradual repaying of a loan or asset (such as a trademark or intellectual property) over time.
Annual management charge
You pay this to a fund manager, stockbroker or financial adviser for managing your investments. Annual charges can vary according to the type of investment and advice.
Annual percentage rate (APR)
An interest rate figure that indicates the total cost of borrowing, including any charges. It is mostly used for credit cards, personal loans and mortgages.
Annual report and accounts
Every year, companies that trade on the main market and AIM must provide a report outlining profits and losses, and the directors' salaries and pay increases for the previous year’s business.
When a retiree uses their pension fund to buy an annual amount paid to them for the rest of their lives.
Another term for an income share within a split-capital investment trust. It is not worth much at the end of the trust term because the capital value has been distributed as income to the investor.
Approved investment trust company
A company that does not have to pay capital gains tax on profits it makes from sales of investments within its portfolio.
The art of buying something cheap in one place and selling it at a profit somewhere else. It exploits often small pricing differences either in the same or similar assets.
The lowest price at which someone will sell an investment at a given moment.
Groups of investments. The main ones are shares, bonds, property, commodities, cash and, more recently, cryptocurrencies.
Association of Investment Companies (AIC)
The main trade body for the closed-ended investment company industry. Visit theaic.co.uk.
Instead of paying income in the form of a dividend, B shares pay holders in extra shares instead.
Part of a company's annual report and accounts. It lists everything the company owns and owes.
Bank base rate
The Bank of England sets a basic rate of interest to determine the cost of borrowing. When it rises, the cost of borrowing increases, but savers usually benefit from higher interest on their savings.
The first currency listed in a currency pair.
Also known as a pip, this is one hundredth of one per cent (0.01%). Even tiny increases or decreases in interest rates can make a massive difference when dealing in chunks of several million at a time.
A term for the stock market when share prices are falling consistently over a period time. The opposite of a 'bear' is a 'bull' market.
If you want to buy an investment, you pay the offer price. If you want to sell, you receive the (lower) bid price. The difference between the two is known as the spread.
When the London Stock Exchange went fully electronic in 1986 and consigned all those noisy, blazer-wearing characters on the stock market floor to history.
Large, often very well-established stock market quoted companies, usually in the FTSE 100 index.
Like an IOU. You effectively loan money to a company or government in return for a fixed level of income.
Also known as a scrip issue, this is when new shares are given to all shareholders, as a sign a company is in good health. They can be more tax efficient for investors than a special dividend.
A theoretical figure representing how much a company is actually worth once all its debts and other liabilities have been subtracted from its assets.
Usually short for stockbroker but can refer to any intermediary selling financial products.
A sustained period of rising share prices. The opposite of a 'bull' is a 'bear' market.
When a company buys back its own shares on the open market and then deletes them. This usually increases the share price because there are fewer shares in circulation.
When a company's management team decides to buy all the company's shares and take complete control of the business.
A class of share issued by investment trusts, which allows them to increase the number of shares in issue and funds under management without reducing the value of the existing shares.
An index of the largest 40 companies listed on the French stock market.
The right, but not obligation, to buy shares at a specified price at a specified date in the future. If the share price has risen above the specified price on the future date, you can buy the shares at the lower price and then sell at an immediate profit. This is called exercising the option. If the share price has not risen, there is no point exercising the option and it expires. All you lose is the premium.
The name for a company's cash or physical assets, or the lump sum an investor has available to invest.
Capital at risk
Products where there is the chance of losing money.
What a company spends on the stuff it needs to develop its business e.g. office space, stationery.
Capital gains tax (CGT)
The tax you pay on the increase in value of an asset – including shares – when you sell it compared with its value when you bought it. Each year you're allowed to make a certain level of capital gains before becoming liable for CGT.
The increase in value of assets, shares, or cash.
A full or partial guarantee on the capital you have invested, regardless of what happens during the term of the product, such as decreases in value.
A type of share within a split-capital investment trust that receives the lion's share of the fund's increase in value.
The art of analysing share price graphs to spot investment opportunities by looking for patterns and user indicators to attempt to predict future trends.
A name for a fund – usually an investment trust – that issues a fixed number of shares when it launches. The share price rises and falls according to the demand for those shares in the market.
The charge made by a stockbroker for dealing on your behalf, or the fee a financial adviser gets from a product provider for selling you one of its products.
Usually goods that have been mined, produced or harvested, such as gold or coffee beans. These are then bought and sold in dedicated commodities markets.
Company share option scheme
The right to buy shares in a company in the future, usually at a discount. This type of scheme is usually reserved for company directors to encourage better performance.
Interest that takes into account the effect of interest already earned and added to the capital amount. It has a snowball-like effect and can account for most investment growth.
Used to reduce the number of shares a company has in issue, commonly where the share price has fallen substantially. Royal Bank of Scotland, for example, did this in the wake of the financial crisis.
Contracts for Difference (CFD)
A form of derivative designed for traders who want extra leverage in share trading. The investor places a deposit with their broker - perhaps 20% of the total purchase value - to open and hold a position. But that margin goes up and down in line with the rise and fall in value of the share. If an investment performs well, the returns will be higher; if they perform badly, the broker will require more margin payments, which must be paid in cash.
Confirmation of your share deal.
The name for a bond issued by a public company.
A tax charged on the profits of a UK company.
A quotation of two currencies, with the value of one quoted against the other.
The index of the biggest 30 companies listed on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange in Germany.
Buying and selling shares during the day in the hope of making a quick profit from short-term fluctuations in share prices. Most day traders do not hold shares overnight.
A type of bond that is secured on the company's assets. This means that if the company goes bust, debenture holders are more likely to get their money back as any assets will go to them first.
A class of ordinary share that receives no dividend either for a set period or until the ordinary share dividend reaches a certain level.
The opposite of inflation. Intense competition in the high street and other economic forces can lead to lower prices in the shops, which can lead to deflation.
The fall in the value of a fixed asset over time.
A financial contract, such as futures and options, whose value is derived from the value of some underlying asset, rate or index. You are not buying anything tangible, just the right to do so at a set price in the future.
Applied to a future stream of income to work out how much it is worth now. The discount rate is closely linked to long-term interest rates.
Discount to net asset value
If the share price of an investment trust is less than the value per share of the assets it has invested in (net asset value or NAV), the trust is said to be trading at a discount. The discount is expressed as a percentage of net asset value. A big discount can mean the shares are relatively cheap. If the share price is higher than the NAV, the trust is trading at a premium.
Alternative term for the paying out of share dividends and fund income to investors.
The income from a share investment, usually paid to shareholders twice a year.
Measures the number of times a company can pay its dividend out of its earnings. It is one gauge of the financial strength of a company. Investors typically prefer dividend cover of 1.5 times. Anything below 1 implies a company is borrowing to pay the dividend.
The dividend per share divided by the current share price, expressed as a percentage.
Dow Jones Industrial Average
The oldest stock market index in the US, measuring the performance of 30 blue-chip companies.
Dual capital trust
An investment trust that offers different types of share. High-income shares that provide no capital growth, for example, or pure capital growth shares that provide no income.
Earnings before interest, tax and amortisation (EBITA)
Used to measure a company’s profitability.
Earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA)
Used to measure a company’s operating performance before certain financial aspects are considered.
Earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, amortisation and rent (EBITDAR)
Used to measure a company’s operating performance, especially airlines whose aircraft rent and ownership costs differ from company to company.
Earnings per share (EPS)
The amount of profit a company manages to make per ordinary share, expressed in pence. The figure is reached by dividing pre-tax profits by the number of shares in issue.
Markets based in developing economies, such as those of Latin America and many countries in the Far East that have not had a long history of equity investment.
Enterprise Investment Scheme (EIS)
A series of generous tax reliefs designed to encourage investment in unlisted companies.
Environmental, social and governance (ESG)
An investment strategy that focuses on ethics, such as how a company considers its impact on the environment and society, as well as how it is run.
The industry name for ordinary company shares.
The capital provided by shareholders, who collectively own the company and benefit from capital growth if the share price rises, as well as dividends.
Investing in companies with a focus on environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues.
Exchange-traded fund (ETF)
A collective investment designed to track an index.
Extraordinary General Meeting (EGM)
A meeting of shareholders usually called by a company's board to discuss special business, such as a proposed takeover or merger.
A type of service, like interactive investor, that simply carries out a transaction rather than providing advice about it.
A fee imposed on investors selling an investment.
Describes how much of your portfolio is invested in a particular sector or geographical area. If your portfolio is largely in technology stocks, it has a high exposure to technology.
A collective term for top five US tech companies - Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix and Alphabet (Google's parent company).
The value of a bond when it matures, also known as the 'nominal' or 'par' value.
An executed order. Part of the phrase ‘fill or kill’, which means to carry out a transaction at the investor's chosen price, or not at all.
The dividend paid by a company to its shareholders at the end of the financial year.
Final salary scheme
An increasingly rare pension scheme. The size of the pot on retirement is based on a percentage of your final salary multiplied by the number of years you have been in the scheme.
Financial Conduct Authority (FCA)
The regulator for the financial services industry – interactive investor is regulated by the FCA. Visit fca.org.uk.
Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS)
Protects customers when authorised financial services firms go bust – interactive investor is FSCS protected.
An investment, such as a gilt (government bond), debenture or corporate bond, that provides a fixed level of income, known as a coupon.
When a company offers its shares on the stock market for the first time, also known as a new issue or initial public offering (IPO).
Often called ‘the Footise’, it is the main UK stock market index measuring the performance of the UK's 100 largest companies by market capitalisation (the number of shares times the share value).
The UK index that measures the performance of the 250 companies below (by market capitalisation) the FTSE 100 companies.
Known simply as the 'All-Share', this is the broadest of the UK indices, measuring the performance of hundreds of quoted companies.
FTSE SmallCap Index
This is the All-Share index minus the top 350 companies.
A series of indexes introduced in July 2001 to measure the performance of funds, products and companies in the socially responsible investing arena.
When an investment trust, or indeed any investor, has invested all their capital in shares or other investments, rather than holding some of it as cash.
The analytical method used to decide whether a particular share is a good investment, primarily analysing only sales, earnings and the value of assets.
The theory that stock market activity may be predicted by looking at the relative data and statistics of a stock as well as the management of the company in question and its earnings.
A type of derivative that is a contract to buy or sell shares or commodities in the future at a pre-agreed price. Futures are generally considered too risky for ordinary investors.
The ratio of a company's borrowing to its assets. A highly geared company is one that has a lot of debt as a proportion of its total assets.
General / generalist trust
A unit or investment trust that has a wide spread of investments and look to provide income as well as capital growth for investors. They are generally less risky than more specialised trusts.
Gilt funds invest in UK Government debt securities. They are seen as extremely low-risk investments, as the Government is very unlikely to default on its debts, so tend to be popular amid market volatility. Investor demand and a historically low base rate means they currently pay very low yields, below inflation.
Guaranteed income bond
A single premium investment offered by insurance companies that pays a fixed amount of income annually and returns the original sum invested at the end of a specified period.
A way of reducing the risk of losses that may occur if interest rates, share prices or foreign exchange rates move in the wrong direction. This usually involves the use of futures contracts.
Describes assets that are not easily converted to cash, such as property.
A class of share within a split-capital investment trust that receives all or most of the trust's income.
A type of unit within a unit trust that automatically pays out an income to holders.
A fund that tries to replicate the performance of a particular stock market index by buying all or a representative proportion of the stocks within that index.
These increase in value each year by the rate of inflation or by a fixed percentage above inflation.
Individual Savings Account (ISA)
A tax-efficient basket in which you place investments and savings up to a specified annual allowance.
The general increase in prices over time. The most common measure of inflation is the Retail Prices Index (RPI).
A charge made by a fund manager to cover administration and sales costs.
Initial public offering (IPO)
A term for what we generally call a ‘new issue’, it is the share offering from a company coming to the stock market for the first time.
A public limited company listed on the UK stock exchange that invests in the shares of other companies.
Joint life annuity
Annual pensions payment that continues after the death of the first partner and ends after the death of the second partner.
Another name for the Alternative Investment Market (AIM).
Letting a share order lapse because the price the investor wanted to buy or sell at could not be achieved at the time of the order. Part of the phrase 'fill or kill'.
A highly tradeable coin minted in South Africa containing one ounce of pure gold and originally intended as an investment item.
Everything that a company owes.
An order to buy or sell a share at a specific price. The order will only be carried out by the broker at that price, or a better one. If the broker cannot fulfil the limit order, it lapses.
A trust that has a fixed date by which it must be wound up.
When a company is wound up and its assets distributed to its creditors.
Describes the ease with which an asset can be converted into cash. A liquid market is one where there is lots of demand for what you want to sell and an abundant supply of what you want to buy.
A public limited company (plc) listed on a stock exchange.
Bonds issued by companies that are not secured on its assets, unlike debentures.
London Stock Exchange (LSE)
The UK's main exchange for buying and selling shares in public limited companies.
A bond or gilt with 15 years or more to go to redemption.
Markets in Financial Instruments Directive (MiFID)
A European Union rulebook to regulate investment services across the European Economic Area members, which, following Brexit, does not include the UK.
The deposit required to open and maintain a position.
Notification that the market has moved against you and more margin deposit, or money) is required to keep the position open.
Sometimes shortened to ‘market cap’, this is the value of a company, calculated by multiplying the number of shares in issue by the current price of the shares.
City dealers who are obligated to provide a price at which they will both buy and sell shares in a particular company from investors, a two-way price. This provides liquidity, which is especially useful when trading shares in smaller companies.
Another word for redemption, when an investment period ends and, in the case of bonds, the nominal value is repaid to the holder.
The price halfway between the offer and bid price at which shares are bought and sold. It is used to calculate investment trust performance statistics.
An investment strategy that aims to capitalise on existing trends in the market, capturing the value of so-called 'hot' stocks.
Monetary Policy Committee
The Bank of England’s committee of financial experts, which meets each month to decide whether or not to raise interest rates.
Money market fund
A mutual fund that invests in very safe and very liquid short-term assets, such as cash. They pay paltry returns below inflation, so your money loses value over time, in real terms. Some investors use them as an alternative to a bank savings account because they offer diversification and the money is easily accessed.
Money purchase scheme
A type of pension scheme that builds up a pot of cash used to buy an annuity on retirement. Personal pensions work on this basis as do many company pension schemes.
Collective investments that pool investors' money which the fund manager uses to buy shares in other companies. Unlike investment trusts, they are not quoted on the stock exchange and cannot borrow money for further investment.
The National Association of Securities Dealers Automated Quotations system is the second-largest stock exchange in the US, specialising in high-tech and internet-related companies.
Net asset value (NAV)
The market value of an investment trust's underlying assets, i.e. the investments it has made in other companies. This is usually different from the share price, which can trade at a discount or premium to NAV, depending on the level of investor demand for those shares.
The return on an investment after tax has been deducted.
Net tangible asset value (NTAV)
A company’s value based on tangible assets, such as property and equipment, but minus liabilities and intangible assets, such as copyrights and patents.
A company that is floated on the stock market for the first time, also known as an initial public offering (IPO).
New York Stock Exchange (NYSE)
The largest and oldest US stock exchange.
Bonds are given a nominal value when they are issued, which is the value they will have when they mature/are redeemed at the end of their lives.
An account that a stockbroker sets up to hold shares on your behalf.
Occupational pension scheme
Another term for a workplace pension, in which you and your employer contribute.
The price at which you buy shares or units.
Ongoing charges figure (OCF)
The annual cost of investing in a fund, expressed as a percentage of the value of your investment. Trading costs are not included, so the true annual cost will be higher than the stated OCF.
Investment funds, such as unit trusts, that have a variable number of units in issue each day. An investment trust, on the other hand, is closed-ended, meaning it has a fixed number of shares.
Open-Ended Investment Company (OEIC)
A type of investment fund gradually replacing unit trusts. The main differences are that they quote a single price rather than a bid/offer spread, and they have a company structure.
A company’s profit, before interest and tax have been deducted.
The contractual right, but not obligation, to buy or sell an investment for a specified price within a set period of time in the future. The right to buy is a 'call' and the right to sell is called a 'put'.
An intent to buy or sell a security.
A style of management associated with mutual and exchange-traded funds (ETFs) where a fund's portfolio mirrors a market index rather than being actively managed by a fund manager.
Peer-to-peer (P2P) lending
A method of lending that cuts out the middleman, i.e. the bank. P2P websites match people or companies looking to borrow with those who have money to lend for a good return. As ever, it has risks but is regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).
Shares in companies that have a low market capitalisation, whose price is usually just a few pence.
Another name for collective or mutual funds.
Your collection of investments, regardless of whether they are shares, bonds or funds.
The amount of a particular share, commodity or currency owned by an investor or company. Short positions are borrowed then sold, long positions are owned then sold.
A report to the Stock Exchange on the company's annual results in advance of the publication of the report and accounts.
If the share price of an investment trust is higher than the net asset value, the trust is said to trade at a premium. The premium is shown as a percentage of the share price.
Price/earnings ratio (PE)
The share price divided by the earnings per share is a measurement of how highly a share is valued. High PE ratios are typically associated with high growth companies. Slow-growth companies like utilities tend to trade on lower PE ratios.
A flat rate charge of £1 on all trades over £10,000, collected by the Panel on Takeovers and Mergers, (PTM), which oversees all takeovers and mergers within the UK.
Public limited company (plc)
A company that offers a proportion of its share capital to the public. Only plcs can be listed on stock exchanges.
Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI)
A key indicator of market conditions in the manufacturing and service sectors.
The second currency listed in a currency pair.
Shorthand for share price. A quoted company is one that is listed on a stock exchange.
A swift rise in the value of the stock market or of a particular share.
Real estate investment trust (REIT)
A listed company that owns property, such as hotels, shopping centres and warehouses, and provides private investors with a tax-efficient income. REITs work in a similar way to mutual funds, trade on exchanges and must, by law, pass on 90% of their profits to shareholders.
The date at which a bond becomes repayable, also known as the maturity date.
A dividend or interest rate figure of a bond that takes into account its capital value if held to maturity.
Reinvestment of dividends
If you save regularly into an investment trust savings scheme, you can ask for any dividends earned to be reinvested to buy more shares.
A comparison of an individual stock’s performance to that of a market index such as the FTSE 100 index.
Retail Prices Index (RPI)
The most common monthly indicator of inflation and the cost of living. It measures the prices of a representative sample of household goods and services.
The amount by which your investment increases in value after interest/dividend income and capital growth have been taken into account.
A change in the price of a share. After a downward trend, a reversal would see the price rise; after an upward trend, it would drop.
When a company issues more shares to existing shareholders, usually at a discount to raise more funds.
Current level of income/dividend payments made by a fund or bond.
Standard and Poor's 500 index is the US equivalent of the FTSE 100, though much bigger. It is a market cap-weighted index of 500 stocks.
A seasonal occurrence where, in the run-up to Christmas and over the festive period, share prices may rise, causing a stock market 'rally'.
When a company floats on the stock market, the initial scrabble for its shares is known as the primary market. After all the shares have been allocated to the investors who applied for shares, they can then be traded on the secondary market.
The term used to cover all stocks and shares.
Self-invested personal pension (SIPP)
A type of pension that gives the holder the freedom to choose where it is invested.
The process of transferring ownership of assets and paying for them.
A security that represents part-ownership of a company.
When a company buys back and cancels some of its shares. The result is that the number of shares in issue falls so the earnings and dividends will be divided between a smaller number of investors.
A scheme offered by a fund manager to take your shares and convert them into shares or cash, invested in their own fund.
The opposite of consolidation, a share split can be used when the price of a share has increased so much that buying just one share is very expensive.
Someone who owns shares in a company.
The classic return/risk measure. Both the Sharpe and the Sterling Ratio methods compare returns with variability of returns, as opposed to the risk of loss of the original investment.
A transaction by an investor who believes a security will decline and sells it, even though he does not own it.
Socially responsible investing (SRI)
See ethical investing.
A one-off dividend paid to all shareholders, usually made when a company has a large amount of cash and retained earnings, which it does not need for investment.
An investment trust that offers different types of share, such as high-income shares that provide no capital growth, for example, or pure capital-growth shares that provide no income.
A market in the underlying investment type on which a futures or options contract is based.
The price of a currency, index or commodity share for immediate settlement or delivery as traded on a spot market.
The difference between the buy price (offer) and the sell price (bid).
A high-risk bet on the future direction of a financial index, share price, commodity or other asset. You can go long (buy) or go short (sell). The size of profit or loss will depend on the amount bet ‘per point’. In the UK, this has the advantage of being tax-free, since it is essentially a bet.
Stepped preference shares
A type of share in a split-capital investment trust that provides dividends that rise at a pre-set rate and a fixed-capital value when the trust is wound up.
A place where stocks and shares are bought and sold.
A member of the London Stock Exchange who buys and sells shares on your behalf.
Used to limit an investor’s losses by automatically buying or selling a share once it hits a specified price. For example, a stop-loss order of 5% below the purchase price will limit any losses to 5%. While it protects against excessive losses on the one hand, it can also mean missing out on profits if shares are sold too soon.
Smaller funds that contain vulnerable levels of shares, leaving them open to sudden outflows.
A stock that has ‘bagged’ you a 10x profit.
The 12-month period beginning 6 April and ending the following 5 April applied to annual tax and investment allowances.
The collective name for investments that offer some form of tax relief on contributions, income, and/or capital gains.
A FTSE index launched by the London Stock Exchange in 1999 to reflect the growth of internet and technology stocks at that time. To be included, a company must be committed to technological innovation and be listed on the exchange.
The return from an investment calculated by combining dividends or interest received with any capital gain or loss. Investment trusts quote two total return figures: one on its net asset value performance and the other on its share price performance.
Investment fund that tries to match the performance of a stock market index by investing in all or a representative sample of the companies listed in that index.
The gap between the return produced by a passive fund and that produced by the index it follows.
The value given to the pensions benefits you have built up in a pension scheme if you decide to transfer them to another pension manager.
Shares, formerly outstanding, repurchased by the issuing company.
Undertaking for Collective Investments in Transferable Securities (UCITS)
A European Union term for a mutual fund that can be marketed in every EU country.
Failure of an investment to grow as fast as its relevant stock market index.
If a company represents 10% of the stock market by market capitalisation, but only 5% of your portfolio, you would be described as being underweight in that stock.
A mutual fund or collective investment that pools investors’ cash and invests it on their behalf. You buy units whose value rises and falls each day. See Open-Ended Investment Company (OEIC).
Investment in companies which have no stock market listing.
The attempt to assess a fair value for a security.
The business of making high-risk investments in small and young companies, often with a high technology bias, which may already be trading or at the planning stage.
Venture capital trust (VCT)
A quoted investment trust that invests in AIM and unlisted companies. VCTs are designed to attract risk capital from higher rate taxpayers by giving them tax concessions on investments.
How quickly the price of a share rises and falls over time. A highly volatile share can generate either large gains or large losses for short-term investors, unable or unwilling to ride out market swings.
The number of shares bought and sold on a stock exchange or individual stock. This is a useful measure of the popularity of a share on a given day.
The right of a shareholder to take part in a company’s decision-making process. Most common shares entitle the holder to one vote each.
A risky investment that gives the holder the right, but not the obligation, to buy the underlying stock of the issuing company at a pre-determined price within a set period.
Calculated by dividing the original share price by the original warrant price. It is used to determine the exposure you have to the underlying shares via the warrant compared with if you had bought them via a market.
The percentage by which the current warrant price, when added to the exercise price, exceeds the underlying share price into which the warrant can be exercised.
The annual dividend or income on an investment expressed as a percentage of the purchase price.