Robinhood (company)

Robinhood Markets, Inc.
FoundedApril 18, 2013; 8 years ago (2013-04-18)
FoundersVladimir Tenev
Baiju Bhatt
Key people
Vladimir Tenev,
Baiju Bhatt,
Electronic trading platform
AUMEst. $20 billion[1]
Number of employees
1,281 (2020)[2]
SubsidiariesRobinhood Financial, LLC.
Robinhood Crypto, LLC.
Robinhood Securities, LLC.

Robinhood Markets, Inc. is an American financial services company headquartered in Menlo Park, California,[3][4] known for offering commission-free trades of stocks and exchange-traded funds via a mobile app introduced in March 2015. Robinhood is a FINRA-regulated broker-dealer, registered with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, and is a member of the Securities Investor Protection Corporation.[5][3] The company's revenue comes from three main sources: interest earned on customers' cash balances, selling order information to high-frequency traders (a practice for which the SEC opened an investigation into the company in September 2020)[6] and margin lending.[7][8] As of 2020, Robinhood had 13 million users.[9][10]


Robinhood was founded in April 2013 by Vladimir Tenev and Baiju Bhatt, who had previously built high-frequency trading platforms for financial institutions in New York City.[5][11] The company's name comes from its mission to "provide everyone with access to the financial markets, not just the wealthy". Tenev noted that executing a trade cost brokerages "fractions of a penny" but they typically charged fees of $5 to $10 per trade, as well as required account minimums of $500 to $5,000.[12][13]

The firm showcased its app publicly for the first time at LA Hacks, first published it on AppStore in December 2014 and then officially launched the app in March 2015.[14]

As of January 2015, 80% of the firm's customers belonged to the "Millennial" demographic and the average customer age was 26.[15] Fifty percent of users who have made a trade use the app daily and 90% use the app weekly.[16] As of 2020, Robinhood had 13 million users.[17][18]

In April 2017, Robinhood raised $110 million at a $1.3 billion valuation led by Yuri Milner of DST Global, Greenoaks Capital, and Thrive Capital.[19][20] On May 10, 2018, Robinhood closed a $363 million Series D financing round led by DST Global.[21] As of May 2018, Robinhood raised a total of $539 million in venture capital funding, with the last valuation at $5.6 billion, up from their previous valuation of $1.3 billion.[21]

In February 2018, the company announced that it would be moving its headquarters from Palo Alto to the former headquarters of Sunset magazine in Menlo Park.[22]

In May 2019, reports from Bloomberg and other outlets publicized Robinhood's pursuit of an additional $200 million in funding, which could value the company in the $7 billion to $10 billion range.[23][24] In November 2019, Robinhood announced its expansion to the United Kingdom.[25]

During the 2020 stock market crash, Robinhood trading increased.[26] The subsequent market rise was partially attributed to Robinhood traders, but a study indicated that Robinhood traders had little daily impact on major shares.[27]

In May 2020, it was announced that Robinhood had raised $280 million in venture funding at a pre-money valuation of $8.3 billion led by Sequoia Capital, and 3 months later, the company announced a $200 million Series G funding round from a new investor, D1 Capital Partners, on August 17.[28][29]


Stock and ETF trading

Robinhood's original product was commission-free trades of stocks and exchange-traded funds. In February 2016, Robinhood introduced instant deposits, crediting users instantly for deposits up to $1,000; previously, funds took three days to appear via ACH transfer.[30] In September 2016 they launched Robinhood Gold, a premium subscription plan that offers up to $50,000 in instant deposits, margin trading, and more market analytics.[31] As of February 2017, the company had executed over $30 billion in trades.[7] In August 2017, the company began offering free stocks in exchange for referring new users.[32] Robinhood has prohibited its users from purchasing some high-risk penny stocks, such as banning purchases of Helios and Matheson Analytics, the owner of MoviePass, in August 2018.[33] Services not offered include retirement accounts, mutual funds and bonds.[34][35]

Robinhood typically only supports trading stocks and ETFs listed on the Nasdaq and New York Stock Exchange, and normally does not support over-the-counter securities such as those traded on OTC Markets. In August 2018, Robinhood introduced support for American depositary receipts, adding 250 highly-searched international stocks.[36]

In October 2019, several major brokerages such as E-Trade, TD Ameritrade, and Charles Schwab announced in quick succession they were eliminating trading fees. Competition with Robinhood was cited as a reason.[37][38][39] Although, Charles R. Schwab said that it was within his brokerage's intentions to eventually eliminate trading fees, as the firm had historically been a discount broker.[40] Support for purchasing fractional shares and automatic dividend reinvestment was introduced in December 2019.[41] Automatic recurring investments were introduced in May 2020.[42] Access to initial public offering shares was introduced in May 2021.[43]

Cryptocurrency trading

On January 25, 2018, Robinhood announced a waitlist for commission-free cryptocurrency trading.[44][45] By the end of the first day, the waitlist had grown to more than 1,250,000.[46] Robinhood began offering trading of Bitcoin and Ethereum to users in California, Massachusetts, Missouri, and Montana in February 2018.[47] In May 2018, Robinhood expanded its trading platform to Wisconsin and New Mexico.[48]

Robinhood later added support for Bitcoin Cash, Dogecoin, Ethereum Classic and Litecoin.[49] Robinhood does not support cryptocurrency wallets and deposits or withdrawals of cryptocurrencies, but it is planning to introduce these features.[50]


In June 2018, it was reported that Robinhood was in talks to obtain a United States banking license, with a spokesperson from the company claiming the company was in "constructive" talks with the U.S. OCC.[51]

In December 2018, Robinhood announced checking and savings accounts, with debit cards issued by Ohio-based Sutton Bank would be available in early 2019.[52] Robinhood claimed the accounts would have a 3% annual interest rate; at the time of the announcement, the highest interest rate on a savings account from a licensed bank was 2.36%.[53] Robinhood initially claimed the accounts would be SIPC insured, which the SIPC denied.[54] The products were rebranded as "Cash Management" the next day.[55] In January 2019, the waitlist and sign-up page were removed from the app.[56] A new Cash Management feature was announced in October 2019, with FDIC insurance from various partner banks and an annual 2.05% interest rate, though lowered before launch to 1.8% after a federal rate cut.[57] The feature launched in December 2019.[58] However, the current APY is a fraction of what it was originally promised and is .30%.[59]


Payment for order flow

Bloomberg News reported in October 2018 that Robinhood had received almost half of its revenue from payment for order flow.[60] The company later confirmed this on its corporate website when asked by CNBC.[61] The Wall Street Journal found that Robinhood "appears to be taking more cash for orders than rivals," by up to a 60-to-1 ratio, according to its regulatory filings.[62]

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority fined Robinhood $1.25 million in December 2019 for failing to ensure that its customers received the best price for orders. All of Robinhood's trades between October 2016 and November 2017 were routed to companies that paid for order flow, and the company did not consider the price improvement which may have been obtained through other market makers.[63] Robinhood was sued in a class-action law suit in December 2020 for failing to disclose that a large portion of its revenue relied on payment for order flow.[64]

Security breach

In July 2019, Robinhood admitted to storing customer passwords in cleartext and in readable form across their internal systems, according to emails it sent to the affected customers. Robinhood declined to say how many customers were affected by the error and claims that it did not find any evidence of abuse.[65] However, in 2020, the firm acknowledged that almost 2,000 Robinhood Markets accounts were compromised in the hacking spree,[clarification needed] and that hackers siphoned off customer funds, a sign that the attacks were more widespread than was previously known, and not forthcoming originally by Robinhood.[66]

Infinite leverage

In November 2019, a user on the WallStreetBets subreddit shared a glitch that allowed Robinhood Gold users to borrow unlimited funds via selling covered calls where the shares had been bought using leverage, and the premium from the call was used to access additional leverage to buy more shares in order to sell more calls and so on. The loophole was closed shortly thereafter and the accounts that exploited it were suspended, but not before some accounts recorded six figure losses by using what WallStreetBets users dubbed the "infinite money cheat code."[67][68][69]


On Monday, March 2, 2020, Robinhood suffered a systemwide, all-day outage during the largest daily point gain in the Dow Jones' history, preventing users from performing most actions on the platform, including opening and closing positions.[70] During this outage the S&P 500 climbed more than 4.6 percent.[71] Robinhood users postulated that the outage was the result of a coding error regarding leap year handling for Saturday, February 29, 2020. Robinhood denied these claims.[72] Robinhood said that they will offer compensation on a case-by-case basis.[73] Robinhood experienced another major systemwide outage on March 9.[74] Robinhood is currently facing three lawsuits due to outages in March 2020.[75]

Suicide of Alexander E. Kearns

Robinhood faced controversy in June 2020 after University of Nebraska student Alexander E. Kearns committed suicide after seeing a negative cash balance of US$730,000 in his Robinhood margin trading account. It was later discovered that this was a temporary[clarification needed] negative balance due to unsettled trading activity.[76][77] In his suicide note, Kearns, who was 20 years old at the time of his death, accused Robinhood of allowing him to pile on too much risk.[78] In a press release, Robinhood promised considering additional criteria and education for customers seeking level 3[clarification needed] options authorization.[79][80][81] Kearns' family is proceeding to file suit against the company.[82]

2020 SEC probe

On September 2, 2020, the Wall Street Journal reported that Robinhood was under SEC investigation for failing to fully disclose selling clients' orders to high-speed trading firms, with a potential $10 million-plus fine.[6] Robinhood paid $65 million to settle the SEC investigation on December 17, 2020.[83]

Gamification in Massachusetts

On December 16, 2020, the Massachusetts Securities Division filed an administrative complaint alleging violation of state securities laws by "marketing itself to Massachusetts investors without regard for the best interests of its customers and failing to maintain the infrastructures and procedures necessary to meet the demands of its rapidly growing customer base."[84] As a result of their gamified interface allowing new investors to participate in advanced derivatives trading, short sales, and call options, the Massachusetts Securities Division contended that Robinhood exploits novice investors, since these types of trade are usually considered "out of bounds" for new investors due to the high risk involved in them.[85]

2021 short squeeze

On January 28, 2021, Robinhood restricted the trading of certain stocks following an effort by users of r/wallstreetbets subreddit to drive up their price. This decision attracted condemnation from internet users on the subreddit and on Twitter.[86][87] United States House Representative Rashida Tlaib called for a hearing by the House Committee on Financial Services, tweeting that Robinhood's action was "market manipulation" to protect hedge funds.[87] Democratic representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tweeted the restriction was “unacceptable,” saying Congress needed to know more about the company's decision “to block retail investors from purchasing stock while hedge funds are freely able to trade the stock as they see fit”, with Republican senator Ted Cruz and business magnate Elon Musk backing the sentiment.[88][89][90][91]

Following the controversy, the app suffered an influx of one-star reviews on the Google Play app store.[92] Google deleted at least 100,000 such reviews, calling them "coordinated or inorganic".[93][94][95] However, after another round of negative reviews on the app dropping it to a 1.1-star rating, Google confirmed that the new reviews do not violate Google policies and will not be removed.[96] Protesters also showed up outside Robinhood headquarters in Menlo Park, California, at the Securities and Exchange Commission headquarters in Washington, D.C., and the New York Stock Exchange.[97] On January 28, a class-action lawsuit against Robinhood for alleged market manipulation was filed in the Southern District of New York. The lawsuit alleges that the app “purposefully, willfully, and knowingly removing the stock ‘GME’ from its trading platform in the midst of an unprecedented stock rise [...] deprived retail investors of the ability to invest in the open-market and manipulating the open-market.”[98][99][100] Later that day, the company announced that it would reallow limited buys of the stocks on January 29.[101]


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