Do You Even Trade?

What an excellent time to be alive! We live in a time where the stock market is right in our hands, thanks to all the digital transformation that has taken place in the last couple of years. The stock market is not as intimidating as it once was. No more suits, fees, or bureaucracy in the way of people trying to get rich!

Before we dive into all the fancy tools and apps that we have now at our disposal to invest, let’s do a quick review of how we got here. On May 17, 1792, on the corner of Wall Street and Broadway, the New York Stock Exchange was born. Back in those days, traders would have to scream and jump over each other to place trades (like animals). In 1870 a revolutionary communications system called the ticker tape changed the game and allowed traders to receive stock price information over telegraph lines. At that time, the ticker tape combined with the phone line was the perfect tool, but it was later replaced around 1966 by the first computers in Wall Street with the Quotron system and the famous quotation board. The computer era had arrived, setting up the scene to create the internet network that would bring individuals unprecedented control over their investments. E*Trade and Ameritrade heavily influenced and spearheaded this new way of trading, becoming one of the first online brokerages. This digital transformation has improved the process and positive experience for customers and industry professionals. However, the market has gone through some rough patches in the last two decades, such as in late 2000 with “The Dot.com Bust,” crash, in 2008 “Great Recession,” and in 2020 with the “COVID-19” crash (which was a smaller one compared to the other 18 ones due to the fast recovery). All that said, since the most recent recovery, there has been a positive outlook on investing.

Photo by Anna Nekrashevich on Pexels.com

Nowadays, thanks to companies like Robinhood, E*Trade, Merrill Edge, and TD Ameritrade, we have all the power right at our fingertips. When everything shut down in February of last year due to Covid, the platforms were already in place, allowing millions of retail investors to challenge the status quo and take advantage of this technology. So, you might wonder why many of these platforms are so attractive to the average joe. These mobile platforms are on the rise for many reasons, but I would like to highlight their simplicity, accessibility, engagement, and efficiency.

  • Simple:  The platforms offer many tutorials, recommendations, alerts, guidance, and videos that simplify the trading process by educating their users.
  • Accessible: It used to be reserved for the elites; however, it is now accessible to anyone with a smartphone, some disposable income, and free time. They now have access to stock options, commodities, fixed income securities, mutual, ETFs, and much more, all packaged into an app 24/7. 
  • Engaging: Thanks to the gamification of the mobile trading apps, these platforms feel more like video games than brokerages. They keep customers engaged with colorful features. The features that significantly improve client engagement are financial goals, performance tracking, retiring planning, and customer interactions between users. Although the gamification of trading is excellent, it comes at a cost. It is imperative to understand the real-life consequences of trading.
  • Efficient: Thanks to the advances in technology and accessibility, we have experienced a shift towards high-frequency trading. Due to the higher efficiency of the trading process, we are now experiencing lower trading costs which help keep the price down. 

Although mobile trading now is extremely popular, ten years ago, that wasn’t the case. If you wanted to log into your brokerage account using your phone, you had to go through an internet browser, which took time, the display wasn’t mobile-friendly, and trades would not always process correctly. Thanks to some technological advancements in the past decade, like larger phone displays and higher processing power, companies saw the opportunity to invest in their mobile platforms, shaping the current market that we enjoy today.

I decided to write about this topic because I found it amusing how many people jumped on this digital transformation trend last year. Now you might be wondering if I actually used any of these apps. The answer is yes. I use the Merrill mobile platform (Merrill Edge), because of the seamless integration with my bank account at Bank of America, in addition to the app interface, speed, and reliability.

I encourage you to do your own research and find which apps are best suited for you. They are plenty of different apps out there that will help you grow your net worth. Also, before you go on with your life and forget about my blog, please don’t forget to complete the survey below. I will be publishing the results on my Twitter account for everyone interested in seeing them by the end of the week.

The opinions expressed in my blog are for general informational purposes only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual or on any investment product or investment platform.

17 comments

  1. We obviously saw a huge influx on new traders into the market over the last year plus. I think that the democratization of trading that results from these platforms is generally a good thing. A great many of the people who were trading because they had nothing else to do and I think some of those people have left the market post reopening. Do you think there is still a large presence these new investors? If so, do you see the subsequent gamification of trading as good for the market?

  2. I think it’s really interesting to observe the effects on the market with so many newer investors trying to get their feet wet. A perfect example is the meme-stock phase we are currently living through… Who would have foreseen a scenario where internet groups get trends going that end up having massive financial effects on actual brick-and-mortar companies!? Putting the past few years into perspective from the century of trading prior to Robinhood, it really makes you think about the next unexpected force on the stock market. And this isn’t even considering the effects that Cryptocurrency will have on the stock market long term.

  3. What a fun article to read after I saw the news headline about the Squid Game cryptocurrency launch and then crash by 100% as the investors ran away with 2.5 million USD… Seriously though, I like your insights into the change and decentralization of trading. It once seemed like a Wall Street occupation and now can very much be done successfully right on our smart phones. I think with proper education its a great opportunity, however the non sophisticated players can certainly shake things up causing a major headache (like the Game Stop scandal earlier this year).

  4. I doubt they just “jumped on the bandwagon” this year, but accelerated plans that were already in place. Although I don’t really think it’s fair to criticize these sites for not having an effective mobile strategy 10 years ago, because NO ONE had an effective mobile strategy in 2011, the point of opening access still remains. Of course, the question is whether allowing novices to invest is a good thing, given all the so-called meme stocks….

    1. It is a really interesting question as to whether is it “good” to allow novices to invest. The same could be said of the uptick in activist shareholders (who could be seen as “novices” to the business they’re deciding to disrupt). I think everyone should be able to participate in investing. The problem is, though, that with the use of social media the integrity of trading weakens. As we saw in the infamous Gamestop short squeeze, social media users can corroborate and cause people who are making verified judgment calls to lose. A part of me feels that that’s the name of the game (you’re buying into risk), but another part feels that educated guesses should win (and not internet / meme hype). The even more interesting question is the regulation of this. I was surprised to see that Robinhood did not get in trouble for cutting off the trading of its users in the whole Gamestop fiasco. I think all apps should proceed very carefully when making those decisions, especially when they make their apps so universally accessible that they can become a place of public forum.

  5. I jumped on the band wagon and made some of my first trades this year with TD Ameritrade online. It was a very easy experience. However, I am taking the wait and see approach, if such a thing exists… Here’s to hoping Apple keeps on innovating and one day my shares grow!

    As I read your blog post, I couldn’t help think of another trading technology, the Apple Stock app! That app that we all just have on our phone, using up our storage. I found an interesting opinion piece on the app and perhaps it’s future use of being a trading platform. Definitely had me thinking!

    https://www.computerworld.com/article/3571797/time-to-think-different-on-apple-s-stocks-app.html

  6. Clearly trading has becoming more approachable and easier to do for the masses over the past two years. But I think it is important to note that day trading is gambling. I’m curious to see over the next year the amount of risk new users take over users who have been on the trading platform for years. We all see overnight success stores on r/WallStreetBets but those are the few, where the masses are losing on single day trades. I do own individual stocks so I don’t think trading is a bad thing, just that it is not automatic free money.

  7. Great post!!!
    I used to trade with leverage with fake money and usually end up with nothing, so I never rushed into doing it with real money ;)
    These days I have also checked trading bots, there is a lot of open-source work: check FreqTrade for example. I find this option more interesting because as humans we are driven my emotions and it must be really stressful to constantly check your phone to see whether the trade is going up or down.

  8. After years and years of trying to convince my parents to trade, they finally jumped on the trading ship in 2020. I don’t recall which app they use, but I know it helps guide them with investment decisions and is very user-friendly. I would be interested to know if digital accessibility will draw younger individuals to invest earlier in life.

    Great blog, Carlos!

  9. Working in financial services I would really like to trade more than I do, but unfortunately, compliance restrictions at my firm are pretty tight. We’re allowed 4 trades per quarter that must be pre-cleared through the department first, which takes a couple of days. It’s absolutely ridiculous in my opinion, especially for someone working in operations. If it weren’t for that I’d absolutely have an app for more frequent trading. In general, I take full advantage of the apps offered by the companies I use for personal transactions. What’s interesting is there are no trading restrictions on crypto at my employer yet, so maybe that’s my opportunity!

  10. Mobile trading certainly inflated stock prices during the height of the pandemic due to the on ramp it provided for retail traders. I certainly benefited from some of the antics that ensued especially due to the WSB crowd. I think a great follow up post to this would be a deep dive on robo advisory services.

  11. Interesting topic! I think its an interesting interaction between the banks who want you to pay them to manage your money, but the appeal or really demand of consumers that they let us do it ourselves. I personally use Fidelity, and I noticed how late to the party they were on creating services to easily buy/sell, and I wonder if the company sees it as a big loss to a disrupter like Robinhood, or frankly, not really a priority, despite what amateur investors say they want.

  12. Nice write up Carlos!

    I remember first getting into Internet trading (really, really small stakes) when I was a grad student the first time (20 years ago!) and my recollections were that it was not worth it unless you were a big player as you got dinged with a flat transaction fee whether buying 10 shares or 10,000 shares. So I opted to just do retirement investing in managed funds until my wife and I finally started using a professional investment advisor to handle things for us.

    But I too got curious during the last year and a half lockdown and so have begun dipping my toe back in (again, very low stakes) and I’ll say the two key differences I see now–beyond the advent of mobile–is that 1) it is easy now to just start small and without worrying about transaction fees and 2) there is so many more educational resources, such as videos and message boards and such, so that I feel like the overall customer journey/user experience is richer (hopefully pun intended!)

  13. I enjoyed reading about the evolution of trading through history and how rapidly things are changing in the investing space thanks to digital transformation. Investing has seen ups and downs the past year but I certainly believe that the platforms such as Robinhood, E*Trade, Merrill Edge, and TD Ameritrade are allowing more people to jump in and trade.

  14. I use to intern at Fidelity and at the time they were trying to figure out a way to attract the younger generations to engage with them – that was 5 years go. I worked on their young investors app creating financial training modules, so I think one of the major contributors to getting people to feel comfortable with using the apps to trade is the knowledge. Your point on modules for training hit the bullseye.

  15. I think a lot of people touched on it, but I wanted to hammer the point that the lack of controls on the retail investor is a bit concerning but definitely falls more into the unethical vs illegal debate. Through a couple of clicks, you can enable options trading, start shorting on margin, or do a whole bunch of other risky stuff that most retail investors do not understand the implications of. Definitely an unintended consequence of all of these types of tools is the societal impact of a segment of millenials that begin trading without having an understanding of what they’re doing. Obviously a difficult question/answer to pose; it obviously shouldn’t be the government or the apps regulating what you can trade, but I’d think more can be done by the apps to try and educate their investors on the decisions they’re making and what the implications are.

  16. I am definitely a person that hopped on the trend of mobile trading back in January of this year and fell into the hype of GME. After Robinhood decided to block purchases of the stock, I felt distrust for the service and most trading in general. I sold all my investments (not much) and haven’t been trading since, but will look into it again after I finish up the MBA. Great post, Carlos!

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: