Starting a new company is hard. Starting a new Broker/Dealer? Well, that’s downright daunting. You’re the pimply-faced, awkward, braces-wearing eighth grader who just moved to town and transferred into the local middle school. You want people to like you, but boy is it tough. How do you break into already-formed cliques of friends? How do you earn the trust of anyone? How do you choose a table to sit at for lunch? It’s harrowing, but with a couple of lucky breaks, and time, you just might start to fit in.
First things First
Number one, you have to do your homework. In the case of setting up a new Broker/Dealer, that means registering with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, an independent federal government regulatory agency. That’s no joke. These guys are tough, and for good reason. They’re the hall monitors who make sure you’re not trying to run a scam, and you are who you say you are. They regulate every move you make and regularly check in on you. They require reams of paperwork, and they have sharp pencils. There’s licensing, oversight, regulatory hurdles. In short, these are not people who get the wool pulled over their eyes.
Then, you have to apply for membership into FINRA and SIPC. FINRA is an independent, nongovernmental organization overseen by the S.E.C that writes and enforces the rules governing registered brokers and broker-dealer firms in the United States. In other words, they’re the ethical, independent watchdogs who protect you, the consumer, from getting fleeced by a bad character. SIPC? Well, they’re your safety net. In the event that a Broker/Dealer fails or is a scam, they cover your investments up to $500,000 (or $250,000 in cash). Again, these organizations serve you, the consumer, and keep a very close eye on us and all our competitors. While we can’t say that they are the Good Housekeeping Stamp of Approval, seeing their logos on our site should give you some degree of comfort in trusting us.
Making friends and influencing people
Just because you show up to the party doesn’t mean people want to talk to you. You earn that right. That’s how we think about our customers. We work to earn their interest and respect in two ways. Having a compelling point of difference is the first. For us, this is all about honesty and transparency. We work for you, not the other way around. When our competitors all went to “free trading”, we smelled something fishy. They were giving up what amounts to billions of dollars in fees happily. Why? Because in doing so, they made you the product. Every keystroke, every trade, every move you made on their platform could make far more money than fees because they now controlled your data and could monetize it. This is the dirty little secret they don’t want you to know about “free trading.” Look at the shiny object while they perform a sleight of hand. They’re counting on you to not ask questions. We saw a way to flip that by sharing every revenue stream we make with you, including your data. Your data is a goldmine, and with us, you get some of the gold.
The second way a customer is earned is through action, and this takes the time only a relationship affords. Our promise to you will always be to make sure your interests come before ours. Not for altruistic purposes, because it’s the right thing to do. We firmly believe that if you feel we have your best interests at heart, and we prove it to you with our actions and how we treat you, we’ll have millions of customers in a relatively short time. The other guys want to squeeze every dollar of profit out of you, we want to show you new ways for you to profit.
Too good to be true?
You’re right to be skeptical. What we are offering you is the opposite of how the financial industry has treated individuals since its inception. What we are doing has never been attempted. But here’s the thing. We’ve run all of the numbers. We have spreadsheet after spreadsheet that shows that this is a sustainable way to build a brokerage firm with purpose. Will we make a little less money in the short run because we are sharing it with you, our customers? Sure. But look at it this way. If you join in our mission, and you stick around, tell your friends and grow your assets, we all win. There is absolutely no reason for the taking advantage of self-directed investors that has been going on for decades, other than to support the huge infrastructure that the legacy players have built. Starting a company from scratch to challenge them affords us to structure ourselves differently. With the right people at the center. You, our customers.
Finding our stride
When we think of our journey over the last year, we’ve learned a lot. Some are simple things, like sticking to our principles. Mike Tyson once famously said, “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” There have been plenty of times we could have thrown in the towel and decided to just behave like everyone else. But that didn’t jibe with us. We always act in the best interests of our customers and if that means doing it the hard way, then that’s what we’ve done. We’ve learned how to listen to our customers. At first, we had a thesis and we executed that in a vacuum. As we’ve released more and more iterations of our product we have spoken with you, our customers, to make sure every change we make is something you want and need. We have re-thought our product roadmap time and time again to reflect the swiftly changing market needs we are witnessing. And we’ve managed to get a little bit better every time we put marker to whiteboard to make sure that what we are building is thoughtful and useful and exciting to the people we set out to please in the first place. All of us.