In conversation with Finextra, Shares CEO and co-founder, Benjamin Chemla, told the publication that the retail social trading platform is extending its services to include crypto trading, with beta testing commencing last week across 11 European countries.
The crypto service is being rolled out across 11 European countries excluding the UK, as the fintech is still awaiting authorisation to offer crypto services there. “I think that offering crypto has become a necessity. Crypto, especially the leading coins, are quite mainstream as assets now.”
“This is a transition phase, as we want to test it in a small scale way across Europe. Our current mission is to offer a large range of assets. US stocks were an easy starting point for us.. We want to enlarge the universe in terms of assets, so with crypto on one side and ETFs on the other, people can create a very diversified portfolio through Shares."
He expects that some users will view crypto as a risky asset, allocating the majority of their funds toward traditional trades, leaving a smaller proportion to speculate on the crypto side.
Chemla notes that Shares’ goal is not to compete with platforms offering the largest range of crypto, but to offer around 40 of the most well-known coins to their users.
Approximately 60% of Shares’ user base is below 28 years old, with millennials and young professionals comprising around 30%.
The company trades on commission, taking a fee for each trade made (a higher fee for crypto trades) meaning that having an active, young user base which executes an average of 2.6 trades per week denotes a strong performance. Users’ average trade size is £40.
When asked whether he is concerned about launching a crypto product amid current recessionary concerns and the global shock that the FTX collapse has instigated, Chemla remains optimistic.
He states that launching this type of product now is very good timing, as giving people the opportunities to better understand risk and make pragmatic financial decisions is important. Additionally, given how significantly prices have dropped for major companies, there is a unique opportunity to get access to big stocks at a more reasonable price point.
“I’m a big believer in crypto - I’m heavily invested in crypto as an individual and I think that in some aspects it is a long term bet, particularly around defi. We are currently facing a very big crisis for sure, but I think people will start to understand that the problem we have is that crypto is a decentralised world with centralised platforms - it doesn’t make sense to hold your crypto assets in such exchanges.”
Chemla argues that the problem with FTX lay in the fact that people were buying crypto and leaving them on the platform, allowing the unregulated FTX platform to maintain custody of these assets - eventually exposing them.
“The safest way to address that problem is to transfer your assets into a cold wallet - and that is part of my roadmap.”
Shares had a “rocket ship app launch” in the UK in May this year, quickly accumulating 250,000 accounts - 45% of which are currently active. Chemla expects that the platform will receive authorisation to operate in the EU in Q1 2023 - “but you never know,” he adds.
In what has been a brutal year for tech, Shares has seemingly sailed through 2022, announcing two major funding rounds led by Peter Thiel’s Valar Ventures within three months of each other, in addition to bringing the Williams sisters onboard as investors and brand ambassadors. With $90 million in funding runway built up over this year, Chemla is optimistic that European expansion in 2023 will go ahead as planned - despite placing a pause on hiring.
“The current situation is tough for startups looking for new funding rounds at Series A or B - which is part of the reason why we pursued our Series B round during summer.”