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Public.com is an online brokerage that has been operating since 2019 (rebranded from Matador). The aim of the platform is to allow everyone to access investments rather than investing being the exclusive domain of the elite.
With the standardization of commission-free trading, the investor class has been broadened over the past few years. This means that as a retail investor, you don’t need to worry about commissions and hefty trading fees eating into your investment profits. As a result. Investing in the stock market is more realistic than ever before.
However, this does leave some questions related to how commission-free brokerages earn revenue. Have you been wondering, “How does Public.com make money?” In this article, we’ll investigate the topic, so you can determine if Public.com is the right platform for you.
Be sure to read our Public.com review to learn more about the platform and what it has to offer.
How Does Public.com Make Money?
Although Public.com offers commission-free trades and charges no fees for a basic account, the company makes money in a few different ways, including optional tips from users, securities lending, interest on cash balances, and markup on cryptocurrency transactions. There’s also a possibility that some form of premium account or subscription will be offered in the future.
Here are more details of each:
Join Public to get up to $300 of free stock when you make a deposit.*
One of the most obvious ways that Public.com makes money is via optional tipping. This feature is available for customers to use when making a trade and it’s completely optional. You can choose to add a tip to your trade to help compensate Public.com for the costs involved in routing trades to exchanges. Bear in mind, that you still have the option to execute your trades without tipping, if you prefer.
Apex Clearing, Public.com’s clearing firm, operates a securities lending program. If you enroll in the program, Apex is able to loan out your shares to institutions and investors. Banks, retail investors, institutional investors, market makers, and other borrowers pay a market-driven interest rate for this service. Apex provides a portion of this revenue as a rebate against Public.com’s clearing and custody fees.
While this may seem a little confusing, essentially, it’s just like a bank using the funds in your savings account for loans to other bank customers. The shares that are loaned out are typically used to facilitate short sales, but your investment exposure will not change. You can still sell your shares and you’ll keep any gains or losses for those loaned shares.
The aspects that may impact you are that if your shares are loaned out by Apex, you waive voting rights, you may receive payments in lieu of dividends, and the shares may not be covered by SIPC protection.
So, it’s important that you read through the Apex Fully Paid Securities Lending Disclosures and the full information for the program, so you are fully aware of the mechanics and potential risks before you sign up. However, you can opt-out of the program at any time by sending Public.com an email, so it’s possible to change your mind if you decide.
Cash Balance Interest
Many investors tend to leave cash in their brokerage accounts as they’re considering their next trades. Public.com earns interest on these uninvested cash balances at a rate set by the Federal Reserve. While this is quite a low rate, currency 0.2%, when you consider all the amounts left idle in trading accounts, it can add up to a significant income for Public.com.
Cryptocurrency Transaction Markups
When you buy or sell cryptocurrencies through the Public app, the orders are sent for execution to Apex Crypto and Apex Crypto holds the cryptocurrencies. Apex Crypto charges a mark up of up to 2% for their services and this is reflected in the prices at which buy and sell orders for crypto are executed.
The markup is necessary to cover the associated costs for facilitating crypto transactions and storage. In exchange for licensing its software to Apex Crypto, Public.com receives some of the generated revenue.
For example, if you purchase $100 of the asset, with a 2% mark up, Apex Crypto will execute the order at a price of $102.
Subscription Fees (Potentially in the Future)
Currently, Public.com does not offer any paid-for premium features, but there is the potential for the platform to charge subscription fees for new premium products in the future (for example, Robinhood offers Robinhood Gold).
This means that while you would still be able to enjoy commission-free trading, you may opt to pay a subscription fee to access the premium tools or features. This would allow Public.com to not only offer a continually improving feature set and also generate another income stream.
One of the ways that many free trading platforms make money is via Payment for Order Flow, or PFOF. PFOF is a common revenue stream for many commission-free brokerages, but it’s a highly debated practice. Essentially, the brokerage firm receives a rebate on each trade routed through the clearing firm.
The primary criticism of PFOF is that there can be a misalignment between the interests of the brokerage clients and the financial aims of the brokerage. Imagine, if two clearing firms offer commission. While one may pay a little less, the other may have poorer price execution quality. This means that the brokerage may choose the firm offering a higher potential revenue, but the client may experience slower execution speed and precision.
As of February 2021, Public.com is PFOF-free and no longer uses order flow as a revenue generation method for its business (competitors like Robinhood and Webull do make money through PFOF). The company has committed to being officially PFOF-free to better align its financial goals with the best interests of its community of investors. Optional tipping was introduced when Public.com moved away from PFOF.
Frequently Asked Questions
Public.com offers commission-free trading, but there are some fees that could apply to your account. For example, if you request a wire transfer, there’s a $30 fee. While there are no fees to transfer your portfolio to Public.com (and Public will cover the fees from your old brokerage up to $150), if you transfer your portfolio from Public.com to another brokerage, a $75 fee will apply.
Public.com’s clearing firm, Apex Clearing does have a securities lending program where shares are lent out to borrowers, typically for short sales. However, you do not have to participate in this program. You can opt-out at any time if you are not comfortable with your shares being lent out.
No, Public.com no longer uses PFOF as a means of generating income. The company determined that PFOF was not in the best financial interests of its investor community and as of February 2021, the platform is officially PFOF-free.
Each time you make a trade, you’ll see an option to add a tip. This is an optional fee that you can add to the cost of your trade, which will help financially support the platform. You can determine the tip amount or if you’d prefer not to give a tip at all.
Today, there are a great many ways to get into investing, even if you don’t have a massive investment fund. Platforms like Public.com allow commission-free trading, so you don’t need to worry about a large commission eating into the amount you have to spend on stocks and funds. However, not all these commission-free platforms are the same and the financial services industry is well known for its lack of transparency. Public.com aims to change this and wants its customers to fully understand how it operates and makes its money.
Public.com is a venture-backed company that’s focused on growing its investor community while providing the best possible service. Its primary aim is to ensure the company’s financial goals align with its customers’ best interests, providing continued transparency. This makes Public.com worthy of serious consideration whether you’re a newbie investor or experienced trader.
Join Public to get up to $300 of free stock when you make a deposit.*
*Offer valid for U.S. residents 18+ and subject to account approval. This is not a recommendation. You can lose money with any investment. Open To The Public Investing is a member of FINRA & SIPC. Regulatory and firm fees apply. New customers receive free stock with value $3-300; 0.3% receive the max value. Cryptocurrency trading offered by Apex Crypto LLC. See Public.com/disclosures/