Financial services company Robinhood has announced that in the first quarter of the year, the number of its customers who traded cryptocurrency spiked to an all-time high of 9.5 million, up from 1.7 million in the fourth quarter of 2020.
The increase is an indication that the hype around cryptocurrency, particularly bitcoin, is driving significant growth in retail investment. Robinhood offers bitcoin, dogecoin, ether and other cryptocurrencies, but it’s likely that this spike is largely due to bitcoin trading, as this constitutes the vast majority of exchange volume.
TechCrunch reported that the company had recorded about six million new customers on its cryptocurrency platform in the first two months of 2021. When compared with the previous year, the increase becomes even more pronounced. In 2020, Robinhood had a peak of 401,000 customers in a single month, and a monthly average of about 200,000 customers.
"We launched Robinhood Crypto to give our customers the opportunity to buy and sell cryptocurrency — in addition to the range of assets offered through our brokerage, Robinhood Financial," Robinhood’s Christine Brown wrote in the announcement. “But there’s still a lot of work to be done. Since the beginning of the year, Robinhood’s crypto team has already more than tripled and we’re continuing to grow. We’ve hired amazing people across engineering, security, and compliance to help us scale and build crypto withdrawals and deposits quickly and safely.”
Though Robinhood has a self-professed mission to democratize access to financial markets, it received criticism from many in the Bitcoin space for cutting off access to users who wanted to trade GameStop securities. By enabling access to bitcoin, a truly decentralized form of financial asset, Robinhood could realize its mission more effectively.