By Claire Boyte-White | January 2, 2018
A lean, mean app-based brokerage touting commission-free stock and ETF trading and an intuitive, though basic, trading interface.
Robinhood is a brokerage that was founded specifically to bring the market to the masses. Developed in 2013 by Stanford University students Vlad Tenev and Baiju Bhatt, Robinhood's streamlined structure is meant to make trading stocks and ETFs quick, simple, and, most important, free. This new take on investing has garnered plenty of attention, and earned the startup a whopping $3 million in investments even before it had a product to launch. Due to the success of the apps, Robinhood is now working to launch a web-based platform, which should be available in early 2018.
Robinhood's ethos is built entirely upon providing the cheapest possible trading services to consumers. While the platform doesn't offer a wide range of securities, focusing instead on stocks and ETFs, there's never a commission on in-application trades. What's more, Robinhood has reinvented the traditional margin account framework. Instead of charging an annual interest rate, which can be confusing to inexperienced traders, this brokerage has attempted to make margin trading more accessible by breaking its margin rates into flat monthly fees based on total account equity and amount borrowed. This makes it easy for clients to borrow as much or as little as they need, with a tiered loan structure that focuses on smaller margin loans. Just like its trading commissions, Robinhood's focus on keeping costs low translates to some of the most competitive margin rates in the industry .
Like any good brokerage, Robinhood is a member of both FINRA and the SIPC. It has insurance under the SIPC that provides a per-client limit of $500,000, with a $250,000 sublimit for cash claims. Robinhood has also secured additional insurance through Lloyd's of London and other London Underwriters to provide excess coverage for clients should the standard SIPC limits not suffice.
Besides providing insurance, Robinhood takes your online security very seriously. In addition to using TPS encryption and cookies on its website, Robinhood's apps offer multiple layers of security. Standard username and password login credentials can be paired with two-factor authentication using SMS security codes for each login attempt to ensure no one but you can access your account. If you already have fingerprint ID set up on your iPhone, the Robinhood app will automatically enable touch ID login, making jumping in and out of the app a breeze.
Because the Robinhood platform is built to be as lean as possible, it's not particularly heavy on special features. This is not a platform for data junkies or day traders, though you can day trade as long as you have $25,000 or more in equity in your account. While Robinhood's fees are quite possibly the lowest in the industry, you'll have to look elsewhere for your research, backtesting tools, or screeners. The platform is built for new investors, who may be overwhelmed by all those bells and whistles, as well as those who know what they want to do and just need a quick, cheap brokerage through which to execute pre-researched trades.
This platform is not built for traders who need all their tools and resources in one place. However, for active traders who DIY their research and data analysis anyway, Robinhood is a great tool for cutting down costs. If fees are a concern, you might consider using another free platform that has a more robust selection of features for research, and then placing trades on Robinhood. The app's built-in consumer protections provide training wheels for new investors and are designed to help prevent high-risk investing by inexperienced users. But for day traders who understand and are comfortable with the risks of trading high-volatility securities and who want to take advantage of margin trading leverage, those consumer protections may make this platform a bad fit.
As of this writing, Robinhood doesn't have a desktop or web-based platform. However, a web-based version is set to roll out in early 2018, and more than 640,000 people have already signed up for the wait list.
The new platform is anticipated to be considerably more robust than the current mobile app, but may still not include quite the suite of features other free platforms tout. That being said, there's been no hint that Robinhood's bargain-basement price structure will be changing, so the new web-based platform may still be a good option for those who are fee-conscious and know how to do their research elsewhere.
- Analyst Ratings
Check analysts' buy, hold, and sell ratings for any ticker, and read commentary from Morningstar.
- Price Paid Seeing aggregate data for the average price paid for a given security, as well as the current share price, can help investors effectively time position entry.
- People Also Bought Each ticker profile will provide a list of stocks and ETFs other investors frequently purchased to help users identify upstream suppliers, competitors, and more.
- New Features for the Apps All features of the web-based platform will be available in the iOS and Android apps later in 2018.
- No Advertised Advance Tools
Though there may be surprise additions, no advanced charting, backtesting, or analysis tools are currently planned for the web-based platform.
- No New Securities Based on published information, the new platform won't offer options, futures, forex, or mutual fund trading.
-We Still Have to Wait The primary downside to the web-based platform is that it won't be out until 2018.
As Robinhood's only current platform, the mobile app experience is the linchpin of its product. While the app (available on iOS and Android) doesn't have a lot of bells and whistles, it is extremely intuitive, aesthetically pleasing, and user-friendly. As noted already, you won't be able to do a lot of in-depth research using the app, but you can easily and quickly catch up on relevant news, check streaming stock prices, deposit or withdraw cash from your account, and place trades, all from your handheld device.
One of the primary advantages of the app is that it's simple
to use even for beginning traders, and the app setup is highly intuitive. Every
process is clearly labeled and step-by-step instructions are offered for more
complex operations, like bank transfers.When you first open the app, or any
time there is an update, cards will pop up to explain how to use the app or where
to find new features, or to suggest handy shortcuts that make trading even
simpler. Accessing help articles and customer support is also just one tap
away, and the app has all the same support resources as the website.
There's also no need to head to the website for any account maintenance, as you can transfer money to or from your bank, update your account settings and investment profile, and change security requirements, all right from the app. You can even transfer stocks from another brokerage to your Robinhood account or set up automated recurring bank transfers to ensure your account is always funded..
If you have touch ID set up on your iPhone, the iOS app automatically allows you to log in with your fingerprint once you've registered your account - a relatively minor feature that makes hopping in and out of the app quick and easy.
Executing trades is incredibly simple. You can either access the trade screen from a ticker profile, or simply swipe left on a ticker in a watchlist to reveal a "Buy" button. Swiping on a ticker will also reveal a "Delete" button, and you can remove a ticker from your watchlist by continuing to swipe left off-screen.
The Robinhood app's simplicity - which may be a big benefit for casual traders or new investors - could be a hindrance to more advanced investors and day traders. It lacks almost all research and analysis tools, meaning users need to have a pretty good idea of what they want to do before they open the app. In addition, Robinhood doesn't provide any conditional ordering capabilities or advanced routing options, so traders who utilize more advanced strategies or need to have a lot of in-depth data available at a glance may need to weigh the relative benefits of Robinhood's rock-bottom prices against the convenience of trading on the same platform they use for research.
Robinhood offers multiple ways for users to get in touch, as well as broker-assisted trading for an additional fee. However, none of these resources are available 24/7, so if you need support outside of market hours, you'll be out of luck until the next business day.
Robinhood does provide some social media support, with a dedicated Twitter handle for user questions. There is also a Facebook page, though it is not as regularly updated, as well as links to its Google+ and LinkedIn profiles. Robinhood's support page also specifies that brokerage assistance may only be available for urgent requests, so its one-on-one services are limited.
The Robinhood website has no research resources or tools. Again, it is built for those who already know what they're doing or are only executing basic trade strategies. Since the platform only offers stock and ETF trading, there is no information about other securities, like options or futures, though the site does specify that the company hopes to add those trading capabilities in the future.
The mobile app, however, does offer some minimal research tools, including a basic tick chart, some at-a-glance fundamentals, valuation statistics, and a news feed.
Once again, the app's simplicity is its primary selling point. All the data listed above is available on the ticker profile, with no tabs or additional pages to click through. Just type in a ticker symbol or company name in the search bar and click the relevant result. All data is displayed clearly in a scroll-through format, making a cursory analysis of any available security quick and easy.
If you want to dive deeper into the numbers, plot studies or indicators alongside tick data, or use advanced tools like screeners, this isn't the platform for you - unless you want to do your research elsewhere and then use Robinhood solely for placing trades. If you're looking for conditional orders, in-depth fundamentals, or searchable news and market updates, Robinhood will likely disappoint.
The Robinhood website also doesn't really provide anything in the way of educational resources, except those that help the user experience. The blog has additional information, but only about Robinhood features, new developments, and industry awards. In terms of articles, videos, or other media that could help investors learn about stocks and other securities, trading strategies, or how to invest for specific goals (like retirement), the site comes up short.
The app offers the exact same collection of explanatory support articles as the site, so those looking to read up on analyst musings or learn about advanced trading strategies won't find anything helpful. The support section provides thorough and helpful articles on how to navigate the platform, set up an account, and use margin trading or other features, but that's where the resource library's offerings end.
Claire has been writing about retirement planning, tax policy, investing and corporate finance for over a year. After leaving her career in the insurance industry working for high-profile clients, Claire decided to pursue a career in writing. Her keen attention to detail and head for numbers has made her a perfect fit for Investopedia.