As we prepared for Robinhood’s Co-CEO and Stanford alum, Baiju Bhatt, to visit The Industrialist’s Dilemma, we thought the class session would revolve around how Millennials want to trade stocks for free.
As has been widely reported, Bhatt and his team were inspired to set up Robinhood in the wake of the Occupy Wall Street protests of 2011.
For Bhatt and the Robinhood founding team, their goal was to widen the scope of accessibility of stock ownership to a broader audience of people than those who currently own stocks and get to participate in the economic benefits of equity appreciation.
Quintessential Industrialist’s Dilemma Bhatt stressed that the one of the key things that made Robinhood possible were those technological innovations we identified at the start of our class that make this dilemma different than others: ubiquitous mobile accessibility, widespread innovation on information availability and simplicity enabled by seamless software solutions which reduce barriers to entry and access.
What caught our attention is that if we accept Bhatt’s assertion that what Robinhood is doing is democratizing stock trading to an even greater extent than it has been done previously, and that the value they are bringing is to those who have historically been outside of the highly-serviced and high-end financial industry, Robinhood may be uniquely positioned to leverage technology to bring financial advantages to a very large and under-served segment of the United States population to gain economic benefits previously not attainable.
A Message of Optimism At one point during the Q&A with the students, Bhatt was asked about Robinhood’s responsibility in teaching financial literacy to their customers – the implicit criticism that the company could either intentionally or unintentionally create moral hazard for individuals who may not understand the risks of investing in the market.
While Bhatt talked about those places in Robinhood’s product where customers can get educated on financial issues, and while he also talked about how widely available this information is versus the past, he also responded with a full-throated defense of the intelligence of people to understand the basics of their own financial well-being.