Generally, many of the UK stock brokers are not very helpful on this score, due to a combination of money laundering regulations and a tendency to regard overseas clients as a hassle. (The same problem is true for non-residents wanting to open an UK bank account.)
There are a handful of UK stock brokers that indicate they will deal with non-residents, but investors report different levels of success opening and using accounts. It may depend on whether you are a UK citizen but non-resident, whether you are neither a citizen nor a resident, whether you are resident in the European Economic Area (EEA), whether you have a UK bank account and even who you speak to at the company.
The following firms have been reported to open online trading accounts for at least some non-residents and are so probably worth investigating first:
- TD Direct Investing (formerly TD Waterhouse) has an Overseas Resident Trading Account. Reports of success opening one vary and it may be available to EEA residents only. UPDATE: Some readers (e.g. see comments below) have reported that TDDI is now closing accounts held by some non-residents. References to the Overseas Resident Trading Account on the main TDDI site are few and links to TD Direct Investing International (formerly Internaxx) in Luxembourg are more prominent, suggesting they may be aiming to steer new non-resident clients there.
- A large number of non-residents have said that Fastrade/Charles Stanley is willing to open accounts for them. It may also be worth investigating Stocktrade/Brewin Dolphin, which is a similar type of firm and does not explicitly rule out non-residents.
- SVS Securities says on its website that it will open accounts for non-residents with a UK bank account.
- One non-resident reader of this site has reported that Saga Share Direct was willing to open an account for him. However, the Saga service is operated by Barclays Stockbrokers who apparently do not deal with non-residents, so it seems possible that there may be some miscommunication involved and there might be a risk of the account being shut down on review by Barclays. UPDATE: It’s not clear whether Barclays will accept non-residents now or not – see comments below.
- Another non-resident reader has reported opening an account with Sucden and finding staff there very helpful. Sucden isn’t the cheapest choice, but it offers a wider range of assets than most UK brokers (including stock options), so it may appeal to clients keen to trade several types of instrument through a single account.
Elsewhere, the multinational firms Interactive Brokers or Saxo Bank will almost certainly accept you through one arm or another and give you low-cost access to the UK market. However, whether that would be through the UK office or whether they would allow you to link to a UK bank account (if you have one) isn’t clear – it may depend on where you are resident.
Beyond these possibilities, it’s always worth approaching a specific firm to ask if they’ll deal with you. However be aware that some non-residents have reported success opening accounts, only to have it shut down months later, so make sure you get confirmation that non-residents are permitted from somebody who is in a position to know.
In general, you may find the traditional stock brokers are more welcoming than many of the discount stock brokers, because their business is less focused on maximising volume and minimising complications. However, some of these firms offer telephone dealing only, while online trading will often be more convenient for non-residents.
All the above assumes you are not a US resident. If you are, things get tougher due to foreign stock brokers wanting to avoid issues with Regulation S and now FATCA. No UK brokers are confirmed to deal with US clients, although obviously you can trade UK stocks through some of the US international stock brokers.
Any extra feedback from non-residents who have successfully opened accounts (or have confirmed that it’s not possible) with the stock brokers mentioned above or any others is very welcome. Please add a comment below or use the contact email form.