Wealthsimple refuses to restrict trading in Reddit-fuelled stocks
The head of Canadian online trading platform Wealthsimple Financial Inc. said there's no plans to curb or throttle investors' ability to trade in certain securities.
In a television interview, Wealthsimple Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer Mike Katchen said the Canadian platform will do what it can to make users aware of the risks of certain volatile securities, but won’t bar clients from making trades.
“We see our role as really providing a safe and reliable brokerage platform for people and we don’t plan to restrict trading in any of these securities,” he said.
“We look to the regulators to tell us if they are going to be halting securities. We’ll take our cues from them, but we won’t be making those decisions ourselves.”
Katchen’s comments came on the heels of a controversial move made by U.S. brokerage Robinhood Markets Inc. to restrict trading in a slate of volatile securities, including GameStop Corp., BlackBerry Ltd. and AMC Entertainment Holdings Inc.
Robinhood announced Thursday that it would limit retail investors to trades closing out their positions, but would not allow them to buy shares or options in those companies.
That decision sparked a backlash from vocal Reddit subgroup r/WallStreetBets, which has helped drive the parabolic rise in shares of those companies, and from Capitol Hill, where U.S. representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez called for an investigation into the trading freeze.
Robinhood later reversed course, allowing retail investors to buy limited amounts of stock, but defended the initial decision as a move to ensure it maintained adequate capital levels due to the volatility and expiration of options contracts.
While those options contracts have caused headaches for Robinhood, Wealthsimple’s Katchen said his firm would not face the same difficulties as it currently does not allow option trading on its platform as of yet.
“There’s nothing inherently wrong about [options], however, as you’re seeing now, they are extremely risky,” he said. “I think the real risk is when you have a lot of new investors who don’t know what they’re doing getting access to these tools prematurely, before they really understand them and taking outsized risk with them.”
“I think the gamification of these highly risky tools is problematic, and could result in some very bad outcomes for people. And we don’t want to be a part of that.”