Updated Feb. 16, 2021
Over the past three decades, investing has become dramatically more accessible with the standardization of the commission-free trading model. This has played an important role in broadening the investor class, but like many innovations, it has come with a new set of challenges that must be addressed.
Without commission fees, brokerages lean on other forms of revenue to sustain and grow their businesses, including Payment for Order Flow (PFOF), a much-debated practice in which a brokerage firm receives rebates on trades routed through its clearing firm.
The main criticism of PFOF is that it creates misalignment between the financial aims of the brokerage and the interests of its clients. As of Feb. 16, 2021, Public is officially PFOF-free and will no longer have order flow as a revenue generator for our business. We are committing to this to better align our financial goals with the best interests of our growing community of investors.
The culture of the financial services industry has never been famous for its transparency, and we think it’s time for that to change. As a commission-free brokerage app, we want to make sure our customers fully understand, in plain terms, how our business makes money. So here’s the breakdown.
As a replacement for revenue we would otherwise generate via payment for order flow and to compensate for the additional costs of routing to exchanges, we have introduced an optional tipping feature for customers to use when they make a trade. Members can choose to add a tip to their trade to support our commitment to not participating in payment for order flow. Importantly, members can choose to execute their trades without commission fees or tipping if they so choose. You can find more information on our FAQ page.
Our clearing firm, Apex, is able to lend shares to investors and institutions that need or want to borrow them. Those parties (e.g., retail investors, banks, market makers, institutional investors) pay a market-driven interest rate for borrowing the shares and may use the borrowed stock to provide liquidity, hedge a position, arbitrage an opportunity, create a structured product, or bet against the price of the stock. Apex then provides us a portion of the interest they receive as a rebate against our clearing and custody fees.
Importantly, this solution does not impact your investment experience, meaning you continue to have the same investment exposure and are always able to sell their shares. You can find more about this at Public.com/disclosures/.
Interest on cash balances
We earn interest on uninvested cash balances. The current interest rate as set by the Federal Reserve is 0.2%.
Currently, we don’t have any paid-for premium features, but as we develop the platform we intend to introduce new products for which we might charge a subscription fee.
As a venture-backed company, we are focused on growing our community of investors and providing the best service to them. Ensuring our financial goals align with the best interests of our customers is foundational to our future success as a business, which is why they take precedence in all the decisions we make, big and small.
As Public grows and evolves, we commit to providing continued transparency to our customers regarding how we make money.
Questions about our business (or anything else)? Send us a note at firstname.lastname@example.org.