At Berkshire Hathaway‘s (NYSE:BRK.A)(NYSE:BRK.B) latest annual meeting, Warren Buffett had some not-so-kind things to say about the Robinhood stock trading platform. In this Fool Live video clip, recorded on May 3, Fool.com contributor Matt Frankel, CFP, and Industry Focus host Jason Moser discuss what Buffett said, as well as the other side of the story from Robinhood’s perspective.
Matt Frankel: It shouldn’t surprise you to learn that Buffett is not a Robinhood trader. If anyone was worried that he was going to jump on the platform and start buying GameStop, that’s not the case. He criticized Robinhood for the gamification of it, which we’ve done on the show a few times.
Jason Moser: Sure.
Frankel: We’ve talked about how Robinhood turns investing into a casino and that was their biggest driver of success, I would even go so far as to say in 2020, when there were no casinos, there were no sports to bet on. So that became the casino. The No. 1 Reddit thread on investing is called WallStreetBets. You can’t tell me that investing hasn’t been gamified.
Frankel: That’s what’s getting all the headlines. So Buffett’s caution as he said, this creates its own reality for a while and it does, because how many times have you seen people say on Twitter and stuff, “stocks always go” up in the past year.
Frankel: Or things to that effect? Yeah, the stonks or whatever, and he says that nobody’s going to tell you when the clock is going to strike 12 and it all turns into pumpkins or mice. In some stocks, it actually happened. Some of the really speculative SPAC stocks or some of their short, sweet stocks that we’ve seen did not always go up, lo and behold. He did say he’s interested in reading Robinhood’s IPO filing when it comes out to see, but he called it part of the casino group. Munger had some equally nasty comments about it. He said it’s awful that something like that brought investments from civilized men and decent citizens and brought it into Robinhood’s platform. The two are not fans, and it’s just like there are always people who are going to invest in the wrong ways. That’s why Buffett’s advice has been so widely followed for so many years. This states way before the Robinhood thing ever started. People investing in the wrong way. But he said that just really adds to the gambling atmosphere of it. People have referred to Wall Street as a casino long before Robinhood got involved with things.
Moser: Sure. Yeah.
Frankel: So it’s not that Robinhood’s making it into a casino, it’s like the casino had the roulette table and Robinhood is just adding the flashing lights on top of it, is what’s going on.
Moser: Well, they replied. They responded to that. There was a blog post out this morning from the head of public policy communications of Robinhood to counter Buffett Munger’s comments and ultimately, they feel that Buffett and Munger have insulted a new generation through their comments on Robinhood. I guess it remains to be seen exactly how this all works out. I think the criticisms that have been lobbed up against Robinhood are fair. Again, building something like that from the ground up, you’re bound to make some mistakes and learn some things along the way. So I will not be one to jump on the bandwagon saying that Robinhood’s days are numbered. But perhaps they need to be a little bit more thoughtful on how they build out this platform if they want to really build the next-generation of investors as opposed to the next-generation of traders or gamblers, because clearly, they are two very different things.
Frankel: Yeah, for sure. I’m not a Robinhood user. I’ve said that there are some cases where it could be a good platform to use, especially for cryptocurrency investors, I’ve made that case where it’s a good place to have everything in one place. But one thing is for sure, it has brought millions of people into the investing world.
Frankel: Whether that’s a good or bad thing and they’re doing it in the right way or not it’s up for debate, but they have really brought a new generation of investors into the markets. I’d like to see them double down on education and things like that the way SoFi is doing.
Frankel: SoFi is partnering with Coursera to create personal finance classes that it’s giving to its members. I would love to see Robinhood doing something like that. That’s really my big issue with Robinhood, is that they don’t emphasize investing, they emphasize trading, it feels like. So that’s my big issue with Robinhood.
This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis — even one of our own — helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.
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