Robinhood’s sinking value is proof that ‘free’ can often be very costly

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One thing I love about fintech is the promise of unlocking more tools for more people. In a broad sense, the current era of fintech has done just that — people around the world now have access to financial services that were earlier either completely out of reach before, or, at a minimum, prohibitively expensive.

Neobanks, fintech APIs, new savings programs, infinite cards for different payment methods, stablecoins for cross-border payments, cheaper fiat transfers and, of course, zero-cost trading have improved how the average person can use, store and interact with money. It pretty much rules.


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The tech has proved darn neat, but there are some issues on the business model side of things. As it turns out, not charging for what was once a paid service is a great way to accrete customers, but it’s also an at-times tricky way of making money. This is a lesson that Robinhood is in the process of learning — and as a public company, sharing with the rest of the world.

This week, Robinhood reported Q1 earnings that were far under street expectations. CNBC notes that the company’s per share loss of $0.45 was $0.09 worse than analysts’ expectations, and that the company’s revenue result of $299 million was off by around $57 million. Shares of Robinhood are trading sharply lower this morning.

Parsing the Robinhood earnings presentation this morning, it’s clear that the equities trading boom that powered its hypergrowth has passed. And, of all the company’s products, the most durable remains its most controversial — yes, Robinhood’s options trading revenues once again accounts for the majority of its transaction income, following declines in the value of stock trades and crypto trading activity.

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