Robinhood, the popular free stock-trading app, is set to venture into the U.K. market, despite the country’s ban on payment for order flow. This move comes after Robinhood experienced a significant drop in its stock price following a disappointing third-quarter earnings report.
A Risky Endeavor
Launching trading in the U.K. presents a significant challenge for Robinhood as the country does not allow the practice of payment for order flow. This payment model has been the primary source of revenue for Robinhood, particularly during the pandemic when it became the fastest-growing brokerage in the U.S. In fact, it accounted for over 80% of the company’s revenue in some quarters.
The Controversial Practice
Payment for order flow involves brokers directing customer orders to market-makers who execute trades on behalf of the customers and profit from the difference between the buying and selling prices. A portion of this profit is then returned to Robinhood. While other brokers also engage in payment for order flow, some have implemented restrictions, such as Fidelity.
Conflict of Interest Concerns
Critics argue that collecting these payments creates a conflict of interest for brokers as it incentivizes them to encourage customers to trade more frequently. The more trades occur on their platforms, the more money brokers receive from market-makers. Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Gary Gensler has voiced his concerns about this practice, highlighting potential conflicts of interest.
An Uphill Battle
As Robinhood enters the U.K. market, it will face an uphill battle without its primary revenue generator. The company’s success in this new venture will test its claim that banning payment for order flow would threaten free stock-trading. Despite the challenges, Robinhood remains committed to expanding its services globally.
Robinhood Expands its Business to the U.K.
Robinhood, the popular trading platform, seems undeterred by the possibility of a ban on payment for order flow by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Although the SEC’s proposal could impact the amount of payment for order flow received by brokerages, experts don’t believe a complete ban will be enforced.
Interestingly, Robinhood’s expansion into the U.K. indicates their confidence in generating revenue even without relying heavily on payment for order flow. As interest rates have risen, Robinhood has decreased its dependency on this practice and now generates the majority of its revenue from net interest income.
Jason Warnick, the CFO of Robinhood, expressed optimism about their prospects in the U.K. market. He emphasized their ability to earn money through various sources, such as securities lending, margin lending, interest on uninvested cash, and their premium service called Robinhood Gold, which offers investors higher interest rates and additional perks.
Warnick acknowledged that building a profitable business in the U.K. may take a couple of years, but he expects Robinhood to achieve profitability by 2024. Despite not having posted an annual profit in its decade of operation, industry analysts anticipate a shift towards profitability for the company.
It remains to be seen how Robinhood’s expansion into the U.K. will pan out, but the company appears driven to succeed in new markets.