Investing overseas – How to buy international shares

15 March 2023

3 minute read

We explore the new service from Barclays to allow investors to choose international shares.

Who's it for? All investors

The value of investments can fall as well as rise and you could get back less than you invest. If you’re not sure about investing, seek professional independent advice. Tax rules can change and their effects on you will depend on your individual circumstances.

Building a balanced portfolio includes investing in different regions of the world. Investing in international markets – as well as the UK – could offer a number of benefits including greater diversification and gaining access to sectors that may be under-represented in the UK stock market.

By investing further afield, you can gain exposure to more markets that can help provide a better balance of sectors and industries further helping with diversification. This can cushion the impact of any market volatility.

Being able to buy shares around the world allows investors to expand beyond London listed companies. Investors with a Smart Investor account can also access shares on 10 different markets around the world from Amsterdam to the US. This means you’ll be able to buy and sell shares in companies listed on these exchanges via Smart Investor.

If you like to choose your own shares you now have access to exciting markets including the US (NASDAQ, NYSE), Canada (TSX and Ventures) and major European exchanges Amsterdam, Paris, Xetra (Germany), Madrid, Stockholm and SIX (Switzerland).

How to invest in global markets

Whether you’d like to add global shares to your ISA general investment account or Self-invested personal pension (SIPP) you are now able to do so at the touch of a button.

When you start searching for a share in the search box, as before the predictive search will kick in. Shares that match your typing will display a flag to help determine where in the world that stock is based.

When you find your chosen share, you’ll be able to access the same information as you can with UK companies including an overview, historical share prices for performance and analysis tools.

You will have the option of a standard ‘At Best’ order or a ‘Limit’ order. An ‘At Best’ order aims to secure the best price available at the time for the investment and quantity you want to buy or sell. You can place at best orders at any time – if the market’s closed, we’ll process your order when it reopens. As you can’t set a price, the actual price at which you buy or sell might be different than you expected. A ‘Limit’ order allows you to trigger a trade at a specific price you’re willing to deal at.

Costs include transaction fees which are charged according to the market your share is listed on. US trades cost £6, and it’s £9 for other exchanges. If you want to deal on the phone, each trade costs £25. There are other taxes and levies that customers should be aware of ahead of investing in international markets. Find out more about costs.

Smart Investor only supports settlement in GBP, meaning we’ll convert GBP to the native currency of the share to settle any purchases. For sales, we’ll convert the native currency from a sale of shares back into GBP using the latest FX rate available at the time. There is an FX charge on each buy and sell trade that is placed on an international market.

If you think you want to invest in US shares you can get prepared by filling out a tax form called the W-8BEN form. It is designed to confirm your status as a non-US person and to ensure that you receive the most beneficial rate of withholding tax1 applicable to you in respect of income earned from your investments in US assets.

You can access your online W-8BEN form from your investment settings menu either online or in the Barclays app (available for current account holders).

When first accessing your form, the status will be set as ‘Not set up’ so you need to click ‘Start form’. There’s plenty of guidance online if you need help with the form. Note that we do not provide any tax advice. If you’re unsure about your own circumstances, please seek independent advice.

If you try to purchase a US stock when the form has not been completed you’ll need to do so before the order can be placed.

Using funds to invest around the world

Remember that while you can buy shares on 10 global exchanges, you can access many more markets around the whole world by investing in a fund. When you invest in a fund, your and other investors’ money is pooled together. A fund manager then buys, holds and sells investments on your behalf.

There are thousands of funds based in the UK which give you access to almost any market around the world. From highly developed economies to emerging markets – investing in shares, bonds or commodities – there are all kinds of investments to choose from. Grouped into sectors of similar investment focus to make them easier to compare. You can find these in our asset search, or you can check out the Barclays Funds List which helps narrow down the huge range of funds available.

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The value of investments can fall as well as rise. You may get back less than you invest. Tax rules can change and their effects on you will depend on your individual circumstances.

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