How does Public make money?


Updated Oct. 7, 2021

Over the past three decades, investing has become dramatically more accessible with the standardization of the commission-free trading model1. 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.

Read more: Aligning with our community →

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 app1, we want to make sure our customers fully understand, in plain terms, how our business makes money. So here’s the breakdown.

Optional Tipping

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 fees1 or tipping if they so choose. You can find more information on our FAQ page.

Securities lending

Our clearing firm, Apex Clearing, operates a fully-paid securities lending program. If a member of Public is enrolled in the program, Apex can loan out their 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.
If Apex loans out shares owned by a Public member, the lender waives voting rights, may receive payments in lieu of dividends, and those loaned shares may not be covered by SIPC protection. Please see Apex’s Fully Paid Securities Lending Disclosures for more information on the mechanics and risks of the Apex Fully Paid Securities Lending Program.

Interest on cash balances

We earn interest on uninvested cash balances. The current interest rate as set by the Federal Reserve is 0.2%.

Markups on cryptocurrency transactions

When you submit an order to buy or sell cryptocurrency using the Public app, that order is sent to Apex Crypto for execution and Apex Crypto holds your crypto. Apex Crypto charges a 1% to 2% markup to pay for their service, which is reflected in the price at which Apex Crypto executes your order to buy or sell cryptocurrency. The markup covers all of the costs associated with facilitating crypto transactions and storing crypto, and Public receives some of the revenue generated in exchange for licensing our software to Apex Crypto.

Here’s how it works:

  • Say the current market price for a cryptocurrency is $100.
  • You purchase $100 worth of that asset.
  • Applying a 1% markup, Apex Crypto executes your order at a price of $101.
  • You will own slightly less than 1 full portion, given the markup.

Subscription fees

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.

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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 hello@public.com.

1 | Zero-commission” or “commission-free” means $0 commission for Open to the Public Investing, Inc. self-directed individual brokerage accounts that trade U.S. listed securities via mobile device. Other fees may apply. See our Fee Schedule for more information.

The above content provided and paid for by Public and is for general informational purposes only. It is not intended to constitute investment advice or any other kind of professional advice and should not be relied upon as such. Before taking action based on any such information, we encourage you to consult with the appropriate professionals. We do not endorse any third parties referenced within the article. Market and economic views are subject to change without notice and may be untimely when presented here. Do not infer or assume that any securities, sectors or markets described in this article were or will be profitable. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. There is a possibility of loss. Historical or hypothetical performance results are presented for illustrative purposes only.

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