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Robinhood Expands Across the Pond, With Plans to Launch Fee-Free Stock Trading in the U.K.

November 20, 2019, 6:00 AM UTC

Stock trading startup Robinhood is venturing outside the United States for the first time—to the land of Robin Hood.

Starting Wednesday, customers in Britain will be able to sign up to get early access to Robinhood’s stock trading service, which is expected to go live in the first quarter of 2020.

Robinhood’s no-fee trading app, launched in 2015, has proved popular with millennials in the United States, where it has grown rapidly to six million users. The company’s latest $323 million funding round in July valued the company at $7.6 billion.

The decision to launch in the U.K., the land of the folk hero the company is named after, comes after the Financial Conduct Authority, the U.K.’s financial services watchdog, authorized Robinhood to operate as a broker in the U.K. in August.

Wander Rutgers, president of Robinhood UK, said he was “super-excited” to be announcing the U.K. launch.

“We are very proud to choose the U.K. as our next market and it’s a continuation of our mission to make investing more accessible for people around the world,” he told Fortune.

In the U.K., Robinhood will market its core product which offers unlimited commission-free trade with no minimum amount required in your account. There will be a website aimed at U.K. investors.

But the Menlo Park, Calif.-based company won’t be offering direct trading in shares on the London Stock Exchange. For now, U.K. customers will only be able to buy or sell shares that trade on the U.S. market.

That includes more than 3,500 U.S.-listed stocks such as Amazon, Apple and Nike, and more than 1,000 global equities, including household names like Burberry, BMW and Barclays, Rutgers says. Customers will not have to pay fees to convert pounds to dollars.

The app offers a variety of free features to help users navigate the market, including access to business news articles and videos, analyst ratings and earnings snapshots as well as price movement alerts and watchlists.

By paying from $5 a month, customers can upgrade to Robinhood Gold, which offers features such as detailed market data, in-depth research reports, and more advanced tools such as margin investing for experienced investors. Robinhood also hopes to launch its daily financial news podcast in the U.K. From their cellphone, customers can top up their account by using a debit card, Apple Pay or Google Pay.
“As we look ahead, we will talk to customers and try to understand whether there are other things that we want to add, it might be direct access to U.K. markets,” Rutgers said.

Robinhood will not be offering trading in options in the U.K., nor trading in cryptocurrencies, which it provides in some U.S. states.

The company is entering a market where there are already fee-free stock trading firms such as Trading 212 and Freetrade as well as established firms such as Hargreaves Lansdown which charge a fee for each trade. Rutgers said Robinhood’s technology, customer focus and the trust it had built up among U.S. users set it apart from the competition.

He said Robinhood sees potential for its product in the U.K., particularly among millennials who may have been put off stock market investing by the cost.
“The U.K. isn’t yet a market of investors and we see that in a lot of people that we spoke to. They see investing as something that is costly, that’s expensive, or something that just doesn’t feel like something for them. At the same time we see that interest rates are as low as they have ever been and most people who have money in their … bank savings account are losing money against inflation,” he said.

But people were interested in starting investing, he said. “In research, we saw about a fifth of millennials have some kind of investment. This is the audience that we understand very well, at least in the U.S., and we’ve been serving this customer base for years now … This is an audience that we are also addressing in the U.K.”.
Robinhood was not discouraged from investing in London, a fintech hub, by the uncertainty surrounding Brexit, said Rutgers.

“One of the important reasons why we picked London as the place for our office is of course the tech talent here, the market for talent is great … Currently we have about 10 people in the U.K. We aim to grow that over time. We are hiring,” he said.

Robinhood, founded in 2013 by Vlad Tenev and Baiju Bhatt, makes money from subscription fees to its premium service, rebates paid by market makers to brokerages in the U.S. for the trades they send their way, and interest on uninvested cash. As a private company, Robinhood does not make public any numbers on its revenues or profit or loss and Rutgers declined comment on any plans for an IPO.

In October, Robinhood unveiled plans in the U.S. for a bank account-like feature that will pay customers 2.05% interest and offer a no-fee debit card service. The launch of the product, called “Cash Management”, came after federal regulators forced Robinhood to withdraw an offer in December to pay a market-leading 3% interest rate.

That mis-step came after regulators said the arrangement on brokerage account balances would be ineligible for depositors’ insurance, and that Robinhood had failed to clear the product with them.

The cash management service will not be available in the U.K.

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