Robinhood to let users hold their own crypto and NFTs as it reaches for growth beyond stock trading

Vlad Tenev, CEO and co-founder Robinhood Markets, Inc., is displayed on a screen during his company’s IPO at the Nasdaq Market site in Times Square in New York City, U.S., July 29, 2021.
Brendan McDermid | Reuters

Robinhood is handing over the keys to some customers’ crypto.

The trading and investing company announced Tuesday it will let users hold and custody their own cryptocurrencies and NFTs in a separate, stand-alone app. It’s Robinhood’s latest move into the digital asset space as it reaches for growth beyond stock trading after facing a stock slide of more than 70% since its IPO last July.

A new app puts Robinhood squarely in competition with Coinbase and start-ups like MetaMask. Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong called his company’s product was the most downloaded, mobile self-custody wallet in the U.S. in a tweet Monday.

Who holds, or “custodies,” someone’s cryptocurrency has become a contentious question in the industry, fueling the viral phrase “not your keys, not your coins.” Some fear storing assets on an exchange makes them more vulnerable to hacks, or censorship.

Robinhood, which topped last year’s CNBC Disruptor 50 list, made its name by offering commission-free stock trading. Its value and user base soared during the pandemic as it ushered in new generation of traders. Robinhood also became the center of the meme-stock saga after restricting trading in GameStop, the highly-shorted name Reddit traders bought in defiance of Wall Street short sellers.

The trading business has slowed significantly since last year. For the three months ending March 31, Robinhood’s revenue fell 43% from a year ago. Since its public debut in August, shares have plummeted more than 70% and are more than 85% off of the all-time high.

In an effort to spur revenue and user growth, Robinhood has been adding more cryptocurrency products and features. In late March, Robinhood also added extended stock trading hours. Robinhood launched an earlier version crypto wallets to customers earlier in April, which will still be available within the core Robinhood app.

Robinhood said the new wallet will roll out with a waitlist first and will be available internationally.

The app will lets users store NFTs, and connect to NFT marketplaces and “decentralized” stock exchanges. It will also let users earn yield through other platforms and access a “variety” of crypto assets on other exchanges.

The new app notably won’t charge network fees, despite Ethereum and bitcoin fees running at $70 in some cases. A Robinhood spokesperson said the crypto product will rely on third-party liquidity providers “competing” for customers’ transactions behind the scenes, in order to offset those network fees.

Robinhood makes most of its revenue off of transaction fees in its core trading business, through a brokerage industry practice called payment for order flow.

— CNBC’s Jesse Pound contributed reporting.

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