Robinhood's biggest business tripled in the 1st quarter as Reddit-fueled day-trading ran wild

Robinhood's biggest business tripled in the 1st quarter as Reddit-fueled day-trading ran wild
Co-founder of Robinhood, Vladimir Tenev.Noam Galai/Getty Images for TechCrunch
  • Robinhood's revenue soared in the first quarter as a result of the early 2021 social-media fueled day-trading mania.
  • The trading app's payment for order flow business generated $331 million in revenue during the period, per the WSJ.
  • That was more than triple the amount the amount generated in the first quarter of 2020.

The Reddit-fueled trading frenzy of early 2021 propelled Robinhood's biggest business to new heights, according to The Wall Street Journal.

The brokerage app's payment for order flow generated $331 million in revenue in the first quarter, said the Journal, citing a securities filing from last week. That's more than triple the $91 million Robinhood reeled in from the business during the first quarter of 2020.

Payment for order flow is the compensation brokerages earn by having third-party firms execute client orders. When Robinhood's clients buy and sell stocks and options, Robinhood routes the trade orders to outside firms who actuate carry out the trade. The outside firms pay Robinhood for routing the order to them.

The practice is Robinhood's largest source of revenue, and has drawn criticism from investor advocates who say it encourages brokerages to maximize their revenue at the expense of customers.

In December, Robinhood agreed to pay $65 million to settle charges from the SEC that accused the app of making misleading statements about how it made money with market makers.

The SEC alleged that the brokerage routinely provided inferior trade prices, even as Robinhood marketed its trades as commission-free and executed with quality that matched or beat peers. The second-rate prices have cost clients a total of $34.1 million, even after accounting for the lack of commission fees, the SEC said.


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