FTX reportedly shopping for brokerages in preparation for stock trading

Crypto derivatives exchange and NFT platform FTX is reportedly in the market for brokerage start-ups as part of its recently announced plans to expand support to stock trading.

The firm announced last Thursday that its U.S.-based subsidiary FTX.US will be launching zero-commission stock trading via its app, and will allow users to fund their accounts with fiat-backed stablecoins.

According to a May 23 report from CNBC — who cited sources that “asked not to be named because the deal talks were confidential” — the firm has held private meetings with at least three brokerage startups over the past few months regarding potential acquisitions.

Three companies named specifically were Webull, Apex Clearing, and Public.com. All parties along with FTX have not yet provided comments on the rumors.

All the firms are registered with the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) and are members of the Securities Investor Protection Corporation (SIPC), suggesting they are on favorable terms with hawk-eyed government bodies such as the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

FINRA registered firms can trade stocks on their client’s behalf and are also permitted to give out investment advice while being a member of the SIPC means that investors are protected financially if the firm fails.

At this stage, it is unclear if FTX is looking primarily at start-up companies to support its stock-focused initiatives, or if the company also has eyes on larger acquisitions long term.

Earlier this month speculation of such started to swirl after FTX founder and CEO Sam Bankman-Fried (SBF) submitted a filing to the SEC showing that he had upped his stake in popular retail trading platform Robinhood to 7.6% for around $648.2 million in late April.

The current market cap of Robinhood (HOOD) stands at roughly $8.4 billion according to Yahoo Finance, suggesting FTX would need to allocate a hefty amount of capital if it were to acquire the firm.

Having said that, SBF has outlined in the past that ambitious acquisitions on the scale of Goldman Sachs “is not out of the question” for FTX if it continues on a strong upward growth trajectory.

The SEC filing however doesn’t offer many clues as it outlines that SBF doesn’t hold plans to have any active participation in the Robinhood, instead describing it as an “attractive investment” to HODL.

“The Reporting Persons intend to hold the Shares as an investment, and do not currently have any intention of taking any action toward changing or influencing the control of the Issuer, participating in any transaction having that purpose or effect,” the filing read.