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  • - This pandemic and its fallout really represents

  • the biggest shock to the US economy in living memory.

  • - [Alexander] 2020 has been a turbulent year

  • for the stock market.

  • - The biggest drop we've seen since that crash in 1987.

  • - Fourth quarter, 1999.

  • That's the last time that we saw a quarter this good.

  • - [Alexander] But rather than be sacred off

  • by the Dow's wild ride,

  • millions of new investors,

  • many of whom are bored, isolated and out of work

  • because of the pandemic are buying like never before.

  • 2020 has been a better year for all brokerage firms

  • but the broker of the moment is Robinhood.

  • Named after the fictional character

  • who robbed the rich to feed the poor,

  • Robinhood's founders say they create the platform

  • to democratize America's financial system

  • by making it cheaper and easier

  • for a new generation of investors

  • to begin building their wealth in the stock market.

  • - [Narrator] I bet he's investing right now.

  • He's taking charge, he's grabbing the bull by the horns.

  • - [Alexander] Since it was founded in 2013,

  • the Silicon Valley-based firm has tried

  • to disrupt the industry.

  • On Robinhood, traders can buy small slices of a stock,

  • otherwise known as a fractional share.

  • Robinhood also doesn't require a minimum balance

  • for opening an account.

  • But the perk that the company is most known for

  • is free trades.

  • - You ever think about trading stocks?

  • There's always been a cost.

  • Usually up to 10 bucks for every single trade.

  • Until now.

  • - [Alexander] Today, free trades are the industry standard

  • but that wasn't the case until last year

  • when Robinhood's success

  • spurred established industry brokers,

  • including Charles Schwab, E*Trade and TD Ameritrade

  • to eliminate their commissions.

  • Free trades were partially what attracted Will Nelson

  • to the app but what really sucked him in

  • was the intuitive interface.

  • - It was fairly easy from the get go.

  • - [Alexander] Nelson, who has no background in finance,

  • started using Robinhood in 2018.

  • - Go into the search bar,

  • you type in what you want, there it is.

  • There's the Buy button.

  • How many did you want?

  • It's fairly straightforward.

  • - [Alexander] That recipe of easy-to-use interface

  • and free trades has transformed Robinhood

  • into something of a phenomenon.

  • This year, the company reported three million new accounts,

  • bringing its total to 13 million.

  • All of this attention has made Robinhood one

  • of the most valuable startups in the country

  • but it has also drawn criticism.

  • - I fundamentally believe that decisions belong

  • to their owners so long as those decisions

  • were entered into knowingly and willingly.

  • - [Alexander] Tara Falcone is a personal financial adviser

  • whose company ResiUP specializes

  • in working with Millennials.

  • - And I think that that's where the fine line

  • is really being drawn here

  • is that these young, inexperienced traders

  • don't know what they're doing.

  • They've never received education around investing.

  • Most of them have no idea what a stock even is

  • or what its price represents.

  • - [Alexander] In a statement to The Wall Street Journal,

  • a Robinhood spokesperson wrote,

  • "It's not lost upon us

  • that our company and our service have become synonymous

  • with retail investing in America,

  • and that this has led to millions

  • of new investors making

  • their first investments through Robinhood.

  • We recognize this profound responsibility,

  • and we don't take it lightly."

  • In June, a 20-year-old trader died by suicide

  • after he misinterpreted his Robinhood account statement,

  • which temporarily showed a negative balance

  • of about $730,000.

  • His family said he was trading options,

  • a complicated financial instrument typically used

  • by experienced traders.

  • - I likened it like to giving the keys

  • of a sports car to a 12-year-old

  • because there are certain aspects

  • or actions in our society that are gated by age

  • because of where we are as young people

  • in our fundamental psychological development.

  • - [Alexander] In a final note left for his family,

  • which was later tweeted by his relative,

  • Kearns wrote that he had no clue what he was doing

  • and that he never intended to take this much risk.

  • In a blog post on Robinhood's website,

  • the company's co-founders wrote

  • that they were personally devastated by this tragedy.

  • Robinhood said it now provides investors

  • with more educational resources and customer support.

  • But critics say Robinhood still makes it too easy

  • for inexperienced individuals to trade.

  • Robinhood still has fewer hurdles for options trading

  • than other brokers.

  • - So I'm gonna open up the Robinhood app.

  • I'm going to hit the magnifying glass

  • at the bottom.

  • It takes me to browse.

  • I'm gonna type in the ticker symbol.

  • - [Alexander] Nelson has been trading options

  • on Robinhood for about a year now.

  • - And the next thing I wanna do

  • is I wanna hit Trade.

  • I see an option to buy or trade options.

  • I'm gonna click Trade Options.

  • It pulls it up.

  • - [Alexander] In just a few minutes

  • with just a few clicks, he makes his trade.

  • - Hit Review, it gives you a chance

  • to make any edits before you execute.

  • Swipe up to submit.

  • And the order was filled.

  • So it really is that simple

  • to execute an options trade on Robinhood.

  • - [Alexander] To learn more about the world of finance,

  • Robinhood traders often turn to social media.

  • Nelson taught himself about options,

  • partially by watching YouTube tutorials.

  • Others turn to popular forums on Reddit or Facebook.

  • - I think what's happening in the options realm right now

  • with young people is that it's talked up

  • so much more on social media

  • as this get rich quick scheme.

  • - [Alexander] Jose Duenas is a moderator

  • on the Facebook group, Robinhood Stock Traders,

  • which has over 100,000 members.

  • - So I joined and then I immediately saw things

  • that were kind of worrying.

  • People just throwing money into a stock.

  • - [Alexander] Duenas, who is a self-taught trader,

  • felt an obligation to try and help.

  • - You feel like, or at least I felt

  • that I had some type of responsibility towards these people.

  • I'm like okay, maybe I know a little bit more

  • than the average person.

  • Let me try to educate some of these people.

  • - [Alexander] Earlier this year,

  • Hertz filed for bankruptcy

  • and its stock price crashed.

  • Whereas established traders stayed away,

  • Robinhood's traders invested in record numbers.

  • - So a stock that had over the last year

  • or so really traded kind of in the teens,

  • they're now seeing it in the $1 and change range

  • and thinking oh my God,

  • this is the steal of the century.

  • Of course, Hertz is gonna continue to exist in some form.

  • I better own this.

  • - [Alexander] This strategy has been repeated many times

  • with Robinhood traders jumping on high-risk investments

  • like the airlines and Kodak.

  • Robinhood's app has also been described as gamified.

  • - Robinhood has different levels that you can unlock

  • as you start trading.

  • Level one is usually just buying and selling stocks.

  • And then level two I believe is options trading.

  • Option three is a more advanced method they say

  • but they do make it seem like you unlock more,

  • the more you learn.

  • So it is kind of a video game aspect.

  • - I've never seen another brokerage account

  • as colorful and as exciting as the Robinhood trading app.

  • There's confetti that appears the first time

  • you place a trade.

  • And while that is something to celebrate,

  • I think that confetti denotes a bit more

  • of a idea of celebration than maybe is warranted.

  • - [Alexander] Despite the potential pitfalls,

  • both Nelson and Duenas say they'll continue

  • to use the app.

  • - I kind of do see it as a stepping stone,

  • I'm young, I'm 24 years old.

  • I think it is a good platform to get your feet wet,

  • maybe learn a little something about stocks

  • but for serious investing,

  • I don't think Robinhood is considered

  • or should be considered a serious stock broker.

  • - And I think there is value

  • into making accessible platforms

  • for people who don't have $20,000

  • or hundreds of thousand of dollars

  • or millions of dollars to go to a hedge fund

  • or to get a special broker

  • and to have these fees.

  • I think it's very important

  • to kind of increase access to it

  • because that's part of the long-term way we,

  • I don't know, make society more equitable.

  • (dramatic music)

- This pandemic and its fallout really represents

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B1 US WSJ robinhood alexander stock trading trade

How Robinhood Is Shaking Up Stock Trading | WSJ

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    joey joey posted on 2021/05/30
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