Access to all forms of financial markets has exploded in the 21st century. Investors now have more choices in investment strategies, instruments, and resources than ever before. To keep pace with this dynamic growth, electronic trading platforms were created. Companies like E*Trade, Scottrade, and TD Ameritrade became household names in the investment community even commanding prime time airtime during the Super Bowl (link). But as the pace of change marches on, it would appear this subset industry is shifting once again.
Welcome to the stage app-based trading platforms. Apps like Robinhood, Acorns, Stash, and Clink have taken the investing world by storm while primarily targeting non-conventional investors. Robinhood, the most successful of its peer group, is valued at $7.6 billion after its latest round of funding despite providing trades free of fees. Acorns, which allows the rounding up of debit or credit card purchase and investing of the “spare change”, has approximately four million users. These apps are designed specifically for smart phones and provide easy and immediate visibility to a plethora of investment tools. Simply put, investing has never been more accessible.
While the emergence of app-based trading platforms is certainly a positive, these apps generally do not provide holistic financial planning capabilities. Nor do they provide the expertise of a trained and experienced financial advisor. However, they do provide a low-cost, low-risk learning opportunity. One such opportunity is using the pool of financial apps to teach children or young adults about financial markets, investing, and financial planning. The Acorns app is a great way to create a small investment account that costs only $1 a month to maintain. Likewise, a parent or guardian could fund a Robinhood account and allow a teenager to trade commission-free in a controlled environment. While these apps may not serve long-term planning and saving needs, they have the potential to serve as valuable learning vehicles for novice investors.
Technology is changing nearly every aspect of our lives and the way we invest has not been insulated from this phenomenon. With change comes opportunity and the rise of financial apps like Robinhood and Acorns has created new and diverse financial resources. Whether you’re a novice investor or a Chartered Financial Analyst, utilizing these newfound resources may help expand your financial acumen, enhance your financial planning abilities, and keep you on pace with the changing landscape of investing.
– Wesley Cooler, Guest Contributor