Retail investors may soon be able to buy and sell shares via Facebook's messenger platform after UK fund supermarket AJ Bell announced plans to launch a new trading service in the next three months.
The service works by allowing AJ Bell's 131,000 customers to communicate with the platform via a bot, an artificial intelligence-based software program. In addition to issuing instructions for the buying and selling of shares, users will be able to access their accounts, receive post-trade costs and charges, request quotes and access market data and research through the Facebook Messenger app.
AJ Bell's digital strategy director Tim Huckle piloted the service earlier this week and conducted what he claims is the world's first trade on Facebook Messenger, buying £500 worth of Facebook shares.
The low-cost broker's announcement comes just two months after Facebook opened up its AI tools to outside companies to encourage them to develop their own bots to communicate with Facebook customers.
The AJ Bell offering is still subject to approval from both regulators and Facebook which must first review the bot, although the broker does not anticipate any regulatory issues, stating to the Financial Times that "trading through Facebook is no different to trading through the website or through our mobile app from a regulatory perspective".
The plan is designed to appeal to the 18-30 demographic which make up the majority of the 900m monthly users of Facebook Messenger and, if successful, could be the realisation of two aspirations - the asset management industry's ambition to develop social media-based distribution networks for retail trading and software companies' wish for greater commercial use of bot technology.