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British fintech firm Revolut is jumping into the online brokerage space with its own commission-free stock trading platform.
The company launched the service — which lets users buy or sell popular U.S. stocks from Apple to Beyond Meat at the tap of a button — on Thursday, looking to lure in millennials who normally shy away from investing.
People will also be able to buy a fraction of those shares, with the minimum amount they can own being $1 worth of stock. Revolut claims the move means it's the "first-ever company" to bring fractional U.S. shares to Europe.
"It's about including people that have previously been excluded from developing their personal wealth," Andre Mohamed, the executive leading Revolut's trading team, told CNBC in an interview, adding that low interest rates have made it difficult for bank customers to save.
"This gives them another way to accumulate their personal wealth starting from a younger age in a way that is easy and low cost."
Set up in 2015, Revolut gained popularity in the U.K. and Europe with a service that lets people spend abroad without paying fees. It's seen as one of the numerous so-called challenger banks that have enjoyed popularity among younger consumers with app-based checking accounts. Revolut's rivals include U.K. fintech firm Monzo and Germany's N26.
The firm's trading move comes after Robinhood's botched attempt to launch checking and savings accounts last year. The Menlo Park, California-headquartered company has made waves in the U.S. with its no-fee trading service, but it hit a snag with its banking push due to regulatory concerns.
Revolut said it partnered with U.S. broker DriveWealth, which will facilitate trades in the background, to build the investing service. The company is hoping to eventually make money from the platform as users of its basic service become more active and opt for the app's premium offerings.
The new feature is currently only available to users with Revolut's metal card — who pay about £13 ($16) a month — but the company said it will roll out to other customers in the coming weeks.
Standard users will be limited to three free trades per month, while premium customers — who pay about £7 a month — can make up to eight free trades and metal users get up to 100. Additional trades will be charged at £1 each, Revolut said.
The news also arrives as Revolut readies an expansion into the U.S. While the company will no doubt be seen as trying to take on Robinhood, Revolut's Mohamed said the comparison wasn't warranted.
"We have the ecosystem, it's not really a fair comparison," he said. "We're just going to offer so much more than they can. It's a different demographic as well. And from a pricing perspective, this is very much a freemium model, driving subscriptions."
Mohamed was tasked with heading up Revolut's wealth and trading unit late last year. Prior to joining Revolut, he co-founded another commission-free trading platform based in the U.K. called Freetrade.
Viktor Nebehaj, Freetrade's chief marketing officer, told CNBC that though parts of Revolut's trading feature bear an "uncanny resemblance" to his company's app, he welcomed the competition.
"Having more choice is fantastic," Nebehaj said. "It's definitely healthy to have competition, it keeps us on our toes." Freetrade said it saw a video demonstration of the product prior to its release.
While Revolut's service doesn't charge commission, it will eventually apply pass-through fees where applicable and 0.01% custody fees as it rolls out to standard and premium customers. It plans to add U.K. and European stocks, exchange-traded funds and stocks and shares ISAs over time.
Based in London, Revolut has lured in over 6 million users, raised $340 million in funding and was last valued by investors at $1.7 billion. By contrast, Robinhood was recently valued at $7.6 billion and had 6 million brokerage accounts at the end of 2018. Both are backed by Russian tech billionaire Yuri Milner's venture capital firm DST Global.
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