Robinhood (company)

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Robinhood Markets Inc.
Private
FoundedApril 18, 2013; 7 years ago (2013-04-18)
FoundersVladimir Tenev
Baiju Bhatt
Headquarters,
Key people
Jason Warnick (CFO)
Gretchen Howard (COO)
ServicesStockbroker
Electronic trading platform
AUMNot disclosed
Number of employees
1,281 (2020[1])
SubsidiariesRobinhood Financial, LLC.
Robinhood Crypto, LLC.
Robinhood Securities, LLC.
Websitewww.robinhood.com

Robinhood Markets, Inc. is an American financial services company headquartered in Menlo Park, California.[2][3] The company offers a mobile app and website that offer people the ability to invest in stocks, ETFs, and options through Robinhood Financial and crypto trading through Robinhood Crypto.[4] Robinhood operates a website and mobile apps for iPhone, Apple Watch, and Android.[5][6][7] The company has no storefront branches and operates entirely online without fees.[8]

Robinhood is a FINRA regulated broker-dealer, registered with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, and is a member of the Securities Investor Protection Corporation.[9][2] The company's main source of revenue comes from interest earned on customers' cash balances, selling order information to high-frequency traders (a practice for which SEC opened a probe into the company in September 2020[10]) and margin lending.[11][12] The company has 13 million users.[13][14]

History[edit]

Robinhood was founded in April 2013 by Vladimir Tenev and Baiju Bhatt, who had previously built high-frequency trading platforms for financial institutions in New York City.[9][15] The company's name comes from its mission to "provide everyone with access to the financial markets, not just the wealthy". Tenev noted that executing a trade cost brokerages "fractions of a penny" but they typically charged fees of $5 to $10 per trade, as well as required account minimums of $500 to $5,000.[16][17]

The app showcased publicly for the first time at LA Hacks, and was then officially launched in March 2015.[18]

As of January 2015, 80% of the firm's customers belonged to the "Millennial" demographic and the average customer age was 26.[19] Fifty percent of users who have made a trade use the app daily and 90% use the app weekly.[20] By February 2018, Robinhood had had 3 million user accounts, around the same number as the online broker E-Trade.[21]

In April 2017, Robinhood raised $110 million at a $1.3 billion valuation led by Yuri Milner of DST Global, Greenoaks Capital, and Thrive Capital.[22][23] On May 10, 2018, Robinhood closed a $363 million Series D financing round led by DST Global.[24] As of May 2018, Robinhood raised a total of $539 million in venture capital funding, with the last valuation at $5.6 billion, up from their previous valuation of $1.3 billion.[24] In May 2019, reports from Bloomberg and other outlets publicized Robinhood’s pursuit of an additional $200 million in funding, which could value the company in the $7 billion to $10 billion range.[25][26] In November 2019, Robinhood announced its expansion to the United Kingdom.[27]

In May 2020, it was announced that Robinhood had raised $280 million in venture funding at a pre-money valuation of $8.3 billion led by Sequoia Capital, and 3 months later, the company announced a $200 million Series G funding round from a new investor, D1 Capital Partners, on August 17.[28][29]

Products[edit]

Stock and ETF trading[edit]

Robinhood's original product was commission-free trades of stocks and exchange-traded funds. In February 2016, Robinhood introduced instant deposits, crediting users instantly for deposits up to $1,000; previously, funds took three days to appear via ACH transfer.[8] In September 2016 they launched Robinhood Gold, a premium subscription plan that offers up to $50,000 in instant deposits, margin trading, and more market analytics.[30] As of February 2017, the company had executed over $30 billion in trades.[11] In August 2017, the company began offering free stocks in exchange for referring new users.[31] Robinhood has prohibited its users from purchasing some high-risk penny stocks, such as banning purchases of Helios and Matheson Analytics, the owner of MoviePass, in August 2018.[32]

In October 2019, several major brokerages such as E-Trade, TD Ameritrade, and Charles Schwab announced in quick succession they were eliminating trading fees. Competition with Robinhood was cited as a reason.[33][34][35] Although, Charles R. Schwab said that it was within his brokerage's intentions to eventually eliminate trading fees, as the firm had historically been a discount broker.[36] Support for purchasing fractional shares and automatic dividend reinvestment was introduced in December 2019.[37] Automatic recurring investments were introduced in May 2020.[38]

Cryptocurrency trading[edit]

On January 25, 2018, Robinhood announced a waitlist for commission-free cryptocurrency trading.[39][40] By the end of the first day, the waitlist had grown to more than 1,250,000.[41] Robinhood began offering trading of Bitcoin and Ethereum to users in California, Massachusetts, Missouri, and Montana in February 2018.[42] In May 2018, Robinhood expanded its trading platform to Wisconsin and New Mexico.[43]

Banking[edit]

In June 2018, it was reported that Robinhood was in talks to obtain a United States banking license, with a spokesperson from the company claiming the company was in "constructive" talks with the U.S. OCC.[44]

In December 2018, Robinhood announced checking and savings accounts, with debit cards issued by Ohio-based Sutton Bank would be available in early 2019.[45] Robinhood claimed the accounts would have a 3% annual interest rate; at the time of the announcement the highest interest rate on a savings account from a licensed bank was 2.36%.[46] Robinhood initially claimed the accounts would be SIPC insured, which the SIPC denied.[47] The products were rebranded as "Cash Management" the next day.[48] In January 2019 the waitlist and sign-up page were removed from the app.[49] A new Cash Management feature was announced in October 2019, with FDIC insurance from various partner banks and an annual 2.05% interest rate, though lowered before launch to 1.8% after a federal rate cut.[50] The feature launched in December 2019.[51]

Controversies[edit]

Payment for order flow[edit]

Bloomberg News reported in October 2018 that Robinhood had received almost half of its revenue from payment for order flow.[52] The company later confirmed this on its corporate website when asked by CNBC.[53] The Wall Street Journal found that Robinhood "appears to be taking more cash for orders than rivals," by up to a 60-to-1 ratio, according to its regulatory filings.[54]

FINRA fined Robinhood $1.25M in December 2019 for failing to ensure that its customers received the best price for orders. All of Robinhood's trades between October 2016 and November 2017 were routed to companies that paid for order flow, and the company did not consider the price improvement which may have been obtained through other market makers.[55]

Security breach[edit]

In July 2019, Robinhood admitted to storing customer passwords in cleartext and in readable form across their internal systems, according to emails it sent to the affected customers. Robinhood declined to say how many customers were affected by the error and claims that it did not find any evidence of abuse.[56]

Infinite leverage[edit]

In November 2019, WallStreetBets subreddit shared a Robinhood money glitch that allowed Robinhood Gold users to borrow unlimited funds. The loophole was closed shortly thereafter and the accounts that exploited it were suspended, but not before some accounts recorded six figure losses by using what WallStreetBets users dubbed the "infinite money cheat code."[57][58][59]

Outages[edit]

On Monday, March 2, 2020, Robinhood suffered a systemwide, all-day outage during the largest daily point gain in the Dow Jones' history, preventing users from performing most actions on the platform, including opening and closing positions.[60] During this outage the S&P 500 climbed more than 4.6%.[61] Robinhood users postulated that the outage was the result of a coding error regarding leap year handling for Saturday, February 29, 2020. Robinhood denied these claims.[62] Robinhood said that they will offer compensation on a case by case basis.[63] Robinhood experienced another major systemwide outage on March 9th.[64] Robinhood is currently facing three lawsuits due to outages in March 2020.[65]

Suicide of Alexander E. Kearns[edit]

Robinhood faced controversy in June 2020 after University of Nebraska student Alexander E. Kearns committed suicide after seeing a negative cash balance of U.S. $730,000 in his Robinhood margin trading account. It was later discovered that this was a temporary negative balance due to unsettled trading activity.[66][67] In his suicide note, Kearns, who was 20 years old at the time of his death, accused Robinhood of allowing him to pile on too much risk.[68] In a press release, Robinhood promised considering additional criteria and education for customers seeking level 3 options authorization.[69][70][71]

SEC Probe on Selling Clients' Orders[edit]

On September 2, 2020, the Wall Street Journal reported that Robinhood was under SEC investigation for failing to fully disclose selling clients' orders to high-speed trading firms, with a potential $10M+ fine. [72]

References[edit]

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External links[edit]