UK Stock Exchanges Explained

Securities exchanges are, of course, marketplaces for buying and selling stocks, bonds, and other securities.

We’ve come a long way from the days of physical buildings with a trading floor (you know the old videos) with members yelling and flinging physical paper around. Today, many stock exchanges have even closed their trading floors and transitioned purely to digital, remote platforms, where trading is done electronically. Stock exchanges in the United Kingdom are no different. This article details some of the largest U.K. stock exchanges, and how they came to be.

List of U.K Stock Exchanges

Stock exchanges operating in the U.K. include the following:


Hours of Operation

London Stock Exchange (LSE)

8:00 - 16:30, M-F

Aquis Stock Exchange (AQSE)

8:00 - 16:30, M-F

Alternative Investment Market (AIM)

8:00 - 16:30, M-F

APX Group (APX)

8:00 -16:30, M-F

The Baltic Exchange 

10:00 - 16:00, M-F

CBOE Holdings UK (CBOE UK)

9:30 - 16:30, M-F

Euronext Stock Exchange

8:00 - 16:30, M-F

London Metal Exchange (LME)

01:00 -19:00, M-F 

London Stock Exchange

The London Stock Exchange (LSE) is the primary stock exchange in the United Kingdom and the largest stock exchange in Europe. It was founded in 1801, but its origins date back to 1698, making it one of the oldest stock exchanges in the world. In 1973, the regional exchanges merged to form the Stock Exchange of Great Britain and Ireland, which was later renamed the London Stock Exchange.

The London Stock Exchange is owned by the London Stock Exchange Group. London Stock Exchange Group was established in 2007 when London Stock Exchange merged with Milan-based Borsa Italiana, the Italian stock exchange. The stock exchange is located in the City of London, England.  

With more than 3,000 companies across 70 countries representing 40 sectors, it’s the most diverse international stock exchange in the world. Through its primary markets, the LSE provides access to the deepest pool of capital in Europe through the listing of equity, debt, and other financial instruments. The LSE is regulated by The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), a financial regulatory body in the U.K. that operates independently of the government. 

The LSE's Primary Markets

There are two primary markets on which companies trade on the London Stock Exchange: the Main Market and the Alternative Investment Market (AIM). The main market is home to more than 1,000 large companies in more than 60 countries. The primary index and proxy, including 100 companies with the highest market capitalization, is the Financial Times Stock Exchange 100 Index, also called the FTSE 100, FTSE, or colloquially pronounced the "Footsie." 

The alternative investment market (AIM) is an international market for smaller companies seeking access to growth capital. It’s home to more than 3,800 companies worldwide. The AIM offers a simpler admission process for companies seeking to become publicly listed. Unlike the Main Market, AIM is not a U.K. regulated market but instead is considered a U.K. multilateral trading facility. It is regulated by the LSE as a recognized investment exchange under the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000. 

Brief History of the London Stock Exchange 

The history of the London Stock Exchange dates back to the coffee houses of 17th century London. At the time, stockbrokers were not allowed in the Royal Exchange, the center of commerce for the City of London. Instead, they operated in nearby establishments, notably Jonathan's Coffee-House. At Jonathan's Coffee House, a broker named John Castaing began posting the prices of stocks and commodities such as coal, paper, and salt for businessmen to conduct trades. Eventually, this activity moved away from coffee houses and a more formal system of trading evolved, paving the way for the first regulated stock exchange to emerge in London in 1801. 

Other Stock Exchanges Located in the U.K.

Alternative Investment Market (AIM) 

The London Stock Exchange established the Alternative Investment Market, known as AIM, in 1995 to meet the needs of smaller, growing companies that might not meet admission criteria for the Main Market. The entry criteria for AIM allow companies to gain admission without a trading record, an established management team, or any minimum market capitalisation. AIM companies also benefit from a more flexible regulatory environment.

AIM is regulated by the LSE as a Recognised Investment Exchange, and AIM companies are bound by the AIM Rules for Companies, not the Listing Rules (regulations applicable to companies listed on a U.K. stock exchange). 

AIM can act as a stepping stone for companies to the Main Market using a simplified admission process.  

Aquis Stock Exchange (AQSE)

Aquis Stock Exchange is a market for equity and debt products that’s authorized and regulated by the U.K. Financial Conduct Authority and France’s Autorité des Marchés Financiers. It was previously known as ICAP Securities & Derivatives Exchange (ISDX) and NEX Exchange. Aquis Stock Exchange (AQSE) operates the following market segments:

  • AQSE Main Market (a regulated market)
  • AQSE Growth Market (a primary market for unlisted securities)
  • AQSE Trading (a secondary trading market for securities trading on other EU markets)

APX Group (APX)

Established in 1999, the APX Group is a holding company that operates three energy exchange markets in Belgium, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom. It provides exchange trading, central clearing and settlement, and data distribution services as well as benchmark data and industry indices. APX has over 180 members from more than 15 countries. 

The Baltic Exchange 

Founded in 1744, the Baltic Exchange is a London-based exchange that provides real-time maritime shipping information to traders, including daily freight market prices and maritime shipping cost indices, to guide freight traders and to set freight contract rates and settle freight futures. In 2016, the Singapore Exchange (SGX) acquired the Baltic Exchange, but it remains headquartered in London. 


Cboe Europe operates two equity exchanges, in the Netherlands (Cboe NL) and in the UK (Cboe UK). Combined, they represent one of the largest pan-European exchange groups by market share. Cboe Europe offers trading in more than 6,000 securities across 18 European markets. In addition, Cboe Europe offers market data, benchmark indices, and an equities block trading platform. Cboe UK is recognized and regulated by the U.K.'s Financial Conduct Authority as a Recognised Investment Exchange and is approved to operate a Regulated Market, Multilateral Trading Facility, and an Approved Publication Arrangement.

Euronext Stock Exchange

The Euronext Stock Exchange is a pan-European exchange group based in Amsterdam, Netherlands, that operates stock exchanges that span the Netherlands, Portugal, Belgium, France, Ireland, and the U.K. Over the years, Euronext Stock Exchange merged with several other exchanges, most notably the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), before being acquired by the Intercontinental Exchange (ICE).

It has since returned to operating independently and is the largest center for debt and funds listings in the world.

Euronext Stock Exchange products range includes bonds, commodities, derivatives, equities, exchange-traded funds, indices, warrants, as well as a foreign exchange trading platform. In addition to its main regulated market, Euronext operates Euronext Growth and Euronext Access, which are multilateral trading facilities (MTFs) that offer access to listing for small and medium-sized organizations. As of 2021, Euronext had over 1,900 listed companies. 

London Metal Exchange (LME)

Founded in 1877, the London Metal Exchange (LME) is one of the largest commodities exchanges in the world. Located in London, England, it is the global center for industrial metals trading; most non-ferrous metal futures business is transacted on LME's platforms. Tradable options and futures contracts include aluminum, aluminum alloy, cobalt, copper, lead, nickel, tin, and zinc. Traders can choose from daily, weekly, and monthly contracts, and contracts are traded in sizes called lots. Lot sizes vary from 1 to 65 metric tons in weight, depending on the metal. 

What’s An ADR?

On top of the many exchanges and locales, some securities are even listed on more than one exchange: for instance, many European equities also have a U.S. listing called an “ADR”, or American Depository Receipt. These are issued by U.S. depositary banks and typically represent one share of a foreign company's stock. The ADR trades on U.S. exchanges, which is convenient, and done without the company listing on the exchange. Some ADRs can open the investor up to double taxation and other complexities, so you must know what you own.

U.K.-based stock exchanges, not to mention the many other international exchanges, can be confusing for investors to navigate. Our finance experts have decades of experience in the industry and can help you sort out whether you can borrow against your European or U.K.-listed securities. It’s a fast and easy process, with closing in days (not weeks), and we can lend against most securities and cryptocurrencies. 

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