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Robinhood has been making headlines lately for being at the center of huge stock market disruptions. The free-trading app that lets investors trade stocks without paying commissions or fees has been integral to a Reddit-coordinated disruption of hedgefund short-sellers that has caused stocks like GameStop to surge to as much as $347 per share.
A recent Wall Street Journal article looked at some of the reasons the Reddit investors flocked to GameStop, finding that many were motivated by debt relief — a common concern among people with lower FICO scores. The Reddit/GameStop news has been covered extensively elsewhere, but we thought this might be time to take another look at Robinhood and its users, particularly those with lower FICO scores.
We previously looked at how Robinhood exceeded expectations and saw massive increases in investments in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. This time around, we wanted to take a closer look at how Robinhood stacked up against other major trading platforms and how users were investing by FICO score.
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Since hitting the scene in 2013, Robinhood has become one of the major players in the stock trading game. Though it doesn’t have the half-century history of some platforms, it’s still racked up an impressive 13 million users over the last seven or so years.
2020, and now 2021, have seen vast increases in deposits to trading platforms. There has been a lot of liquidity in the market as COVID-19 restrictions have resulted in decreased spending in many parts of the economy, while Federal stimulus has provided opportunities for demographics, such as low-FICO users, to start investing at rates not previously seen.
Before we take a closer look at Robinhood itself, wanted to see how the platform stacked up against other popular platforms — like E-Trade, Schwab, and TD Ameritrade — when it comes to how much users were investing over the last 12 months.
E-Trade — one of the best-known and mostly widely used trading platforms — saw a more than 400% increase in average account balances among its users over the last 12 months. The average account balance among E-Trade users in Feb 20 was $1,716.39 and that number grew consistently over the the last year, reaching it’s highest point yet in Jan 21 at $8,833.79.
Like E-Trade users, Schwab users’ average account balances grew over the last 12 months. Users started the 12-month period with an average balance of $3916.61 and ended the period with an average balance of $13,918.89 — a more than 255% increase over 12 months.
TD Ameritrade saw large increases in the early part of 2020. In those first months of the COVID-19 pandemic, markets were down, which meant investing was up. With what we know about TD Ameritrade (with its 11 million and counting high-FICO users) this makes sense.
Going into the summer of 2020, though, the average account balance of TD Ameritrade users dipped from its peak at $15.598.50 to a low of $13,104.00 in July. In spite of the more volatile growth, TD Ameritrade users ended the 12-month period with an 835% increase (from $1,574.90 to $14,718.80) in average balances.
And that brings us to Robinhood. The youngest, most-modern of the platforms, Robinhood saw a more modest increase than the other platforms with a nearly 350% increase in the average user’s balance amount over 12 months.
In the next section of our analysis, we took a closer look at Robinhood users to see how investing on the platform broke down by credit score.
Our data showed that a small majority (42.65%) of Robinhood users have what Experian would consider Very-Poor-to-Fair credit scores (credit scores below 650). A similar amount (41.74%) fall into the Fair-to-Good range of credit scores. The smallest segment of Robinhood users (15.61%) fall into the coveted Very-Good-to-Exceptional range.
Credit scores among Robinhood users break down fairly evenly with the other platforms, according to the data. It is notable, however, that Robinhood has the largest percentage of users with credit scores under 650 and the least percentage of users in the 650-750 and 750-or- better ranges.
So, how do users on Robinhood stack up by credit score over the last 12 months?
Among those Robinhood users with credit scores of 750 or better, the average account balance of those users grew 464% over the last 12 months. Robinhood users in the 650-750 FICO range increased their account balances by 135% while those with credit scores under 650 increased their balances by an average of 92%.
Interestingly, while lower- and mid-range FICO score users’ account balances did not grow at the same rate as users with high credit scores, their account balances saw less volatility. Users in the 750+ range saw large month-over-month growth in July and September of 2020, but also saw a large dip in average account balance in December 2020. Users in the other FICO buckets saw, more or less, consistent growth in the average account balance.
The data raises an interesting question: Why are Robinhood users with lower credit scores continue to invest more money with the platform?
One obvious reason is that Robinhood has made it easier than ever to invest. Sure it’s not the only app-based trading platform on the market, but of the major players, it’s the one best-known for being an app-based trading platform. The name “Robinhood” is synonymous with mobile trading.
Robinhood also lacks a certain perceived socio-economic barrier that the E-Trades and Schwabs of the world might present. Robinhood’s ease of access and relative youth (compared to other platforms) are welcoming to non-traditional stock traders — people with less disposable income for investing and to pay advisors.
This combination of ease-of-use and perceived accessibility likely make Robinhood a more attractive platform to lower-FICO score users, who are traditionally less educated and who earn less than their higher-credit score counterparts.
Lastly, Robinhood, as discussed in the WSJ article mentioned above represents, to some, an opportunity to get out from under debt. Millennials, who make up a large share of Robinhood’s users, have on average $28,000 in debt in a world where wage stagnation has made paying debt down more difficult than ever. To people in this situation, the promise of returns on investment provides hope of debt relief.
The transaction-related data used in this report was collected from 1.5 million unique transactions made by 4,978 Stilt users between February 1, 2020 and Jan 28, 2021. All credit score-related data was collected from the same Stilt users during the same period.
The findings of this report are based on an analysis of that data. Credit score statistics were determined by averaging all investment amounts in specific credit score ranges (less than 650, 650 to 750, and greater than 750) during the dates noted above.
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