An individual can invest directly in shares, via share brokers. Individuals need to research each purchase very carefully and be actively monitoring each company to prevent losses. While active full service brokers can improve your chances of positive returns, small shareholders miss out when major deals occur. Larger shareholders will always control the game.
The majority of investment in the share market comes from financial institutions via Managed Funds. These investments are managed actively or passively by fund managers who design and manage a variety of funds with specific risk profiles and objectives. These fund managers are the major players that listed companies must perform for if they are to attract investment.
The local share market is very small compared to the rest of the world. (See the World Sharemarket Capitalisation Chart). Managed Funds enable an investor to invest via a fund manager in any country in the world.