Shares in Robinhood Markets jumped in overnight trading following news that zero-commission online trading platform started testing a cryptocurrency wallet for investors to store and transfer digital currencies.
The shares rose 2.1 per cent to $41.54 in late trading on the back of media reports about the company's cryptocurrency wallet testing, Bloomberg reported. To date, the stock has climbed 7.41 per cent since its initial public offering on the Nasdaq technology index in July.
Evidence of Robinhood’s testing appeared in a beta version of its iPhone app, which includes a “hidden image portraying a wait-list for users signing up for a crypto wallet feature”, according to Bloomberg.
Cryptocurrency wallets are tools that are commonly used to store and transfer digital coins, and are protected by a private key. They come in different forms; hot wallets, which are connected to the internet and considered more risky, and cold wallets, which operate primarily offline.
“At this time, we don't have the functionality to allow customers to transfer their cryptocurrency assets into or out of their Robinhood crypto account,” Robinhood said on its website.
“However, we’re currently working on providing the ability to deposit and withdraw supported cryptocurrencies.”
Robinhood has played a leading role in the global trend of democratising trading for amateur investors. It also reshaped how small-time traders buy and sell stocks when it caused Gamestop shares to surge earlier this year after the US video games retailer was shorted by Wall Street hedge funds.
Robinhood customers can already buy and sell a range of cryptocurrencies through the trading app, including Bitcoin, Ether and Dogecoin. However, a cryptocurrency wallet would also allow them to send and receive digital coins. Other companies such as Coinbase Global and Gemini Trust already offer cryptocurrency wallets of their own, according to Bloomberg.
About 45 per cent of 4,000 people in the UAE, US, UK, China and South Korea polled last year by blockchain-based research platform Realresearch said they used digital wallets frequently, while 18.6 per cent of users said they used only cold wallets.
Half the respondents also said the security of their cryptocurrency assets was extremely important when choosing a new wallet.
“The addition of a crypto wallet should certainly excite the Robinhood investor base,” said Vijay Valecha, chief investment officer at Dubai-based investment company Century Financial.
“With 31 million clients, the company is popular with Gen Z and millennials. These young people … are willing to take a risk and many are likely to make cryptos as a part of their assets.”
During an earnings call in August, Robinhood chief executive Vlad Tenev said that adding crypto wallets was a priority for the company’s developers, Bloomberg reported at the time.
“It’s something that our teams are working on,” Mr Vlad was quoted as saying by Bloomberg. He said the feature was in demand among Dogecoin fans. “The ability to deposit and withdraw cryptocurrencies is tricky to do with scale, and we want to make sure it’s done correctly and properly.”
Robinhood customers will also have the ability to set up two-factor authentication to use the cryptocurrency wallet feature, Bloomberg said. The planned offerings, it said, were discovered by software developer Steve Moser.
While the total cryptocurrency market capitalisation stands at $1.86 trillion, Robinhood's plan to introduce a wallet could help the sector to grow further, Mr Valecha said.
“Cryptos are still in their early innings,” he said. “It's worth noting that the world's largest cryptocurrency, Bitcoin, has a market cap of only $794 billion compared with tech behemoth Apple's value of $2.37tn. So Robinhood is not late to the party and, in fact, it might help mainstream crypto trading further.”
Meanwhile, Robinhood is facing regulatory uncertainty as it makes money through the Payment For Order Flow business model, Mr Valecha said.
“Through this, firms like Citadel Securities and Susquehanna Investment Group pay money to Robinhood to take the other side of trades. This practice is now widely criticised as unethical and Securities and Exchange Commission chairman Gary Gensler recently stated that they were reviewing it and might even ban this practice,” he said.
“Robinhood shares are likely to trade rangebound while this risk is there.”