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Robinhood co-founder: 'We want to be a full-service institution'

Kristin Myers

Speaking on Wednesday’s Midday Movers, Robinhood’s co-founder and co-CEO Vlad Tenev explained that Robinhood has become more than just a stock trading platform. The company recently added cryptocurrency and commission-free options trading.

“We want to offer the best selection of products and services. We want to be a full service financial institution and offer anything that you can walk into your local bank — plus more things because I don’t think you’re going to get crypto from your local bank anytime soon,” he said.

Tenev doesn’t deny that crypto has led to strong growth for the company, but it’s still unclear how many trades are in crypto.

“We haven’t announced breakdowns for our trading volume, but it has been significant,” Tenev explained. “And it’s been growing as we’ve been launching in more and more states.”

Robinhood’s success has come with controversy

The startup was founded in 2013, and offers free stock trading through its mobile app. It quickly became popular with millennial investors, who were attracted to its anti-Wall Street message.

And it shows. The number of Robinhood users is growing fast. In May, it hit 4 million users, more than the popular online trading platform E*Trade. Currently, Robinhood is valued at $5.6 billion.

But Robinhood’s success has also come with controversy. According to Bloomberg, it makes more than 40% of its revenue by selling its data to high-frequency trading firms. It’s a highly criticized practice by regulators and consumer advocates who say it puts consumers at risk for big losses.

“Customers aren’t at risk of losing anything,” Tenev argues. “This is a highly regulated space. Reg NMS guarantees that whenever we use market makers to execute customer orders, those orders have to be executed at the best price across all exchanges.”

“So a customer of Robinhood is not just getting commission-free trading, but they’re getting the best price across all exchanges, if not — if not a better price,” he continued.

Many are skeptical of Robinhood’s viability as a commission-free platform, and Tenev says there is confusion about how the company makes money.

“Another misconception that people commonly have is that data is somehow being sold, customer data. And that’s also not happening,” Tenev explained.

“No customer data is being sold. We use market makers to execute customers’ transactions. So they’re executing the transactions, which is very, very different than actually selling customer data.”

Kristin Myers is a reporter for Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter.

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