Crypto trading app Robinhood eyes US banking license

Crypto trading app Robinhood eyes US banking license

Commission-free trading platform Robinhood Markets Inc. is reportedly in talks with regulators in the United States to secure a license allowing it to offer a broader range of products, including savings accounts and other traditional banking services.

Dubbed “the Amazon of financial services”, the disclosure from Robinhood comes in the midst of a wider rollout of services from the firm, including options trading and, notably, cryptocurrency trading.

Under current regulations, Robinhood is not permitted to offer banking services, which require regulatory approval as a bank. However, the firm is reported to be lining up partnerships and licensing agreements with third parties, which, pending regulatory clearance from the U.S. Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, would allow them to offer these additional services, according to Bloomberg.

Focusing on low-cost, high value financial products, Robinhood aims to disrupt the wider banking and financial market, following the runaway success of its trading products. With some 4 million customers in the U.S. alone, the California-based company is enjoying growth, both in its product reach and customer numbers.

Recently valued at $5.6 billion, Robinhood has attracted backing from the likes of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Sequoia Capital and CapitalG, Alphabet Inc.’s investment fund.

If ultimately approved, it could introduce a number of traditional banking services alongside stock, options and crypto trading platforms. It is feasible this could help cryptocurrency reach a wider audience, which could speed global adoption of currencies like Bitcoin Cash (BCH).

Robinhood isn’t the first in choosing this path; other fintech startups like Stash Financial and Social Finance have rolled out similar offerings in recent months.

By securing approved licensing agreements, companies can avoid the need to apply for a banking license, which carries a much higher threshold in terms of compliance and can take anywhere up to several years to be granted.

With partnerships approved by regulators, the journey to market becomes much easier, and with Robinhood known to be notoriously ambitious, few would bet against them overcoming the regulatory barriers. It remains to be seen whether Robinhood can build on its popularity in the crypto and trading verticals, and capture a share of more mainstream consumer finance markets.

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