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Free stock trading 'unicorn' Robinhood plans UK launch

Oscar Williams-Grut
Senior City Correspondent, Yahoo Finance UK
Robinhood cofounders Baiju Bhatt, left, and Vladimir Tenev. Photo: Robinhood

Hot US fintech startup Robinhood has secured approval from the regulator to launch in the UK, its first market outside of the US.

Robinhood, which lets people trade stocks for free, said on Thursday that its UK subsidiary had been authorised as a broker by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).

Wander Rutgers, president of Robinhood international, said in a statement: “Today marks the beginning of a new chapter for Robinhood, and we’re excited to take the first important step towards bringing our investing platform to customers in the UK.

“I’m thrilled to be a part of Robinhood and our effort to expand to a new international market.”

Robinhood didn’t give a timeline for when it plans to officially launch in the UK but it is understood to be hoping to roll-out in Britain within the next 12 months.

Rutgers, a veteran of the UK fintech scene, is heading a small office in London of less than 10 people and the company is recruiting for more roles as it looks to launch.

Robinhood, founded in 2013, is an online platform and app that lets people trade stocks and shares for free. The company makes money through a subscription product that includes data and margin trading, earning interest on customer deposits, and from payments for order flow. It was two engineers who had helped to build high-frequency trading programmes for hedge funds in New York.

The Silicon Valley-based startup primarily targets millennials and has proved hugely popular in the US. The company has attracted 6 million customers and was valued at $7.6bn ($6.25bn) in its last funding round, making it a so-called tech “unicorn”. It has raised over $860m in funding to date.

When it does launch, Robinhood will face competition in the UK market. Commission-free trading app Freetrade launched in the UK last October and finance app Revolut last week launched a limited free share trading option for customers of its subscription metal cards.

Rutgers, who will oversee the UK launch of Robinhood, joined from money management app Plum and was previously a senior manager at UK money transfer unicorn TransferWise.