Stock trading app provider Robinhood — which was founded in 2013 in an attempt to democratize stock trading — is hopping on the cryptocurrency trading bandwagon. The company announced Thursday that it has plans to roll out trading services for Bitcoin and Ethereum via its mobile app in the coming month. To start with, the service will only be offered to users in California, Massachusetts, Missouri, Montana and New Hampshire, but more states are set to follow.
While, initially, Robinhood users will only have access to Bitcoin and Ethereum trading, the company will permit up to 16 different cryptocurrencies (Bitcoin and Ethereum included) to be added to a “watchlist,” a feature which will permit users to monitor market data, read related news, and create price alerts. The other coins that will be available on the watchlist are Bitcoin Cash, Litecoin, Ripple, Ethereum Classic, Zcash, Monero, Dash, Stellar, Qtum, Bitcoin Gold, OmiseGo, NEO, Lisk, and Dogecoin.
It is important to acknowledge that the company — which is regulated in the U.S. by the SEC and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority — plans to offer its crypto-trading service for free. Further, it promises instant transfers on cryptocurrency purchases for amounts of $1,000 or less, which is a significant improvement on the time it usually takes for investors to buy cryptocurrencies. Robinhood will have no investment minimums or maximums, and no withdrawal limits, and the start-up will hold most of the digital coins offline in cold storage, making it much more difficult for hackers to steal the coins.
Offering the service for free could seem risky. But, the company hopes to attract investors from the $550 billion cryptocurrency industry to the platform and its products, which already provide substantial revenue streams. Specifically, the firm charges for a premium service called Robinhood Gold that enables margin trading and after-hours trading. The company also generates revenue by collecting interest on cash and securities in user accounts similar to a traditional bank.
Having raised a total of $176 million in venture capital, this new crypto functionality is in line with the company’s push to add more products to its offering. Last month, the firm rolled out options trading, and a month earlier it added a web-based platform to its mobile services. But the move isn’t just about luring cryptocurrency enthusiasts to its traditional products, it’s also about giving users normally focused on traditional investment vehicles exposure to cryptocurrencies. The firm recently crossed 3 million accounts and $100 billion in total transacted volume.