This week, we take a hands-on look at the new iOS app Robinhood, a unique, mobile-first take on stock market trading that’s poised to be a big hit with millennials.
Robinhood an apt name for the recently launched stock-trading app made by Robinhood Financial, Inc. — a company whose goal isn’t to rob the rich and give to the poor, but to lower the bar for entry and open Wall Street to people who normally wouldn’t consider investing. Or, as Robinhood’s mission statement puts it, “to democratize access to the financial markets.”
Robinhood’s Goal: Accessibility by Design
Currently available only on iOS, but coming this year to Android and the web, Robinhood makes buying and selling stocks on Wall Street’s digital byways incredibly simple — perhaps too uncomplicated for those without the self-confidence (some would say foolhardiness) to invest money with as little mediation as possible.
Built first for the mobile world, Robinhood offers basic trading — buying and selling stocks and options, limit orders, etc. — for most companies listed on major U.S. exchanges with the simple tap of the iPhone’s touchscreen.
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More complicated financial actions and assets, like margin lending or trades on foreign exchanges, cost money; And trading certain options and mutual funds, for example, is not currently supported (though Robinhood says its working on bringing more complicated securities to its service). But otherwise, all trades are commission free.
Read that again: All normal trades on the Robinhood app cost $0 to make.
It’s the no-fee trading, mixed with no account minimums and its dead-simple mobile user interface that makes Robinhood particularly attractive to millennials.
Accessibility is the keyword for Robinhood, both in execution on the app and financially speaking. Robinhood offers no investment advice or other fancy trading options and institutional advantages of the typical brokerage firm. Instead, it lets the curious DIY investor dip her toes into the wider financial waters without needing to risk any amount beyond what’s comfortable.
I transferred a ridiculous $15 to test the app out, but the common minimum amount users actually invest is closer to $400, according to Robinhood (via Venturebeat). That’s still pretty modest, especially relative to the rest of Wall Street, and it’s why the average age of Robinhood’s clients is around 26 years old.
Getting started is pretty easy, and can be done right on the app (though I personally recommend using the website and a PC’s full qwerty keyboard). If you’ve ever signed up with a day-trading website, setting up Robinhood will be a breeze.
If you haven’t, it’s designed to be as clear and straightforward as possible — though you will need your bank account number and routing information, unless you use one of the nine large national banks (Bank of America, Chase, Capital One, etc.) capable of linking up directly through your username and password. Like any brokerage house, you’ll also have to be at least 18 years old and cleared for entering U.S. financial markets by Homeland Security, both of which take a second to process using your Social Security number.
After that, Robinhood makes it easy to find stocks, invest, and track your portfolio, with a user interface that’s as intuitive and uncomplicated as the best iPhone apps out there.
(Photo : Robert Schoon)
It’s also secure, using SSL and 256-bit encryption and a customizable PIN code (or Touch ID) to keep your portfolio away from hackers, or curious toddlers that lack a sound investment strategy. Robinhood is also legit — it’s an SEC-registered broker and a member of SIPC, which protects customers with assets up to $500,000.
This shouldn’t really matter for day-trading software, but it’s also kind of fun. From the name, to the color scheme, to the quirky introductory video that’s unmistakably geared towards millennials — this isn’t your parents’ investment broker.
Tap That App?
Do your research and don’t gamble foolishly with your money, no matter how little you set aside for your first trades.
But definitely check out this app. It’s a free download and built precisely for first-time investors — and it just may turn out to be the way you started saving for your retirement.
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