Robinhood and the disruption of financial services

The financial service sector is one of the most interesting ones in terms of burgeoning disruption. A sector up until fairly recently not seen as especially dynamic – mainly because the sector itself seemed, and perhaps still is, largely uninterested in advancing things – is now rattling, shaking, squeaking and bustling in every way.

Simple Bank sold to BBVA. Tink, a Swedish company, raises more capital and claims 2% of the swedish population holds an account. In the same area, that of personal finances and money management, is another Swedish start-up in Dreams, helping individuals better save money.

This kind of stuff is natural when you think of the meaning of banks (or whatever we’ll call it). Why individuals need them in their lives. Entrepreneurs focusing on user value, solving problems and seing unmet opportunities, create these things because they should exist. They make sense. And as living our lives involves money and financial services, and technology allows for it, that industry is now booming. Great for almost everyone.

From private finance to investment and trading

Many of the new players in financial services have focused on payment and personal finance. At least the user facing ones. Robinhood takes it in another direction, that of trading.

If I were part of the old school trading industry, I’d be paying close attention as the waves of disruption come rolling in. But, what struck me in the Wired article on Robinhood, is the quote below, where the founders paint a picture, a usage scenario, that really helps us see the viability in the service, and hence potential democratisation of trading.

We all know how toilet breaks, queuing in line, bus rides, ad breaks, just-after-eating-up, micro breaks etc and so on are devoted (more by some) to not only instagram and Facebook – the status check of the collective also known as group of friends – but candy crush, poker, casino and other game like apps, providing that micro fix of excitement. Every gambling company I’ve come in contact with knows (and struggles to perfectly articulate) that intersection of fun/excitement and risk/benefit tickle. But it’s right there in the middle, which is why trading – when made accessible like this – might very well find its way into that usage occasion. I think Roobinhood perfectly exemplifies the importance of looking at behaviours in combination with technology and business vision.

Standing in line for coffee may seem like an awkward time to trade stocks. But for the makers of the new app Robinhood, those casual moments are exactly when they want to reach a new generation of potential investors who might otherwise feel the markets are closed to them.

Robinhood - democratizing stock trading
Screen grab from Roobinhood