Chinese rivals of Robinhood cram into crypto craze
In this photo illustration, a Bitcoin logo displayed on a smartphone with stock market percentages in the background.
Omar Marques | SOPA Pictures | LightRocket | Getty Images
BEIJING – Two of the Chinese rivals of the Robinhood stock trading app are turning to cryptocurrencies to compete abroad.
The companies, Futu and Tiger Brokers, revealed in earnings calls last month that they were applying for licenses in Singapore and the United States that would allow local clients to trade digital currencies.
The move comes as cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin have returned to the limelight in recent months, as Chinese regulators have stepped up efforts to curb speculation in the market. In recent weeks, authorities have issued new warnings against digital currency trading and a crackdown on bitcoin mining – a power-hungry computer process that allows participants to earn bitcoin.
But in the world of financial trading, demand for cryptocurrencies is high, with the price of bitcoin reaching record highs above $ 60,000, before dropping sharply to around $ 35,000.
Robinhood, which started trading Bitcoin and Ethereum in the United States in early 2018, has added 3 million customers per month this year for its crypto business. In April, US cryptocurrency trading site Coinbase debuted on the Nasdaq.
“We are hearing a lot of interest from our users around the world in terms of crypto. We have listened to this,” Arthur Chen, chief financial officer of Futu, told CNBC last week. He said the company hopes to offer cryptocurrency-related products by the end of this year.
Futu and Tiger Brokers were created primarily by Chinese employees of big tech companies like Alibaba and Baidu. Since these companies are listed in the United States, this has piqued their employees’ interest in trading stocks overseas.
However, the two companies are increasingly focusing on markets outside of mainland China. In addition to essentially banning yuan-bitcoin transactions, Beijing tightly controls capital flows outside the mainland.
Futu has gained 100,000 paying customers in Singapore less than three months since launching there in early March, Chen said. He said about a quarter of new paying customers in the first quarter were from Singapore and the United States.
In the international retail market, the two companies face competition not only from Robinhood, but also from traditional players such as Interactive Brokers. Futu and Tiger both seek to attract clients with an in-app social network where users can exchange trading ideas and take investor education courses.
At the end of March, Futu said it had 789,652 clients with assets in their trading accounts, more than three times that of a year ago.
Tiger said the number of customers with deposits more than doubled in the first quarter from a year ago to 376,000.
Cooling interest in IPOs
Customers are very interested in cryptocurrencies and Coinbase’s stock exchange listing has attracted new users, Tiger Brokers CEO Tianhua Wu told CNBC last week.
But he said general user interest in the initial public offerings had waned compared to last year. While the IPO exuberance might have generated $ 1 billion or more in orders around a list, offers now attract far fewer orders in terms of orders, Wu said.
Last week Futu and Tiger Brokers were added to the MSCI stock indexes, which are followed by billions of dollars in global investment.
– CNBC’s Kate Rooney contributed to this report.