Investor Trading Apps – Should You Look Before You Leap?

With more time on their hands during the pandemic due to staycations and working from home, a growing number of investors have been downloading investor trading apps and trying their luck at investing in equity markets and other online assets for the first time. But have they fully considered their options?

Hamzah Almasyabi, co-founder and CEO of the gold-buying platform Minted, outlines the benefits and drawbacks of adopting an investor trading app.

Some of the best-known investment apps, such as Freetrade, Trading 212, Plum and Moneybox, have reported a strong uptick in customer numbers since the start of March, when the UK Government’s lockdown restrictions were imposed. However, in truth, consumers had become more interested in managing their own finances online well before the pandemic. Some platforms have noticed more interest, particularly from younger online investors, who are attracted by the familiarity and gamified nature of the latest investment platforms across a range of asset classes. Equally, older people or more experienced online investors have been exploring ways to make their money go further, sometimes with a view to bringing forward their retirement.

The convenience and simplicity of many new generation investor trading apps is helping to democratise the world of investor trading. It is allowing people to invest in stocks and shares, or precious metals and other commodities, using their mobile phone, while sitting at their own kitchen table. Of course, there are risks but there are also incredible opportunities for people who want to get involved.

When considering investing online for the first time, it makes sense to try out various platforms before starting to invest actual cash. Some platforms offer newcomers a chance to spend virtual money, just to see how their investments might have fared in the real world. Such ‘try-before-you-buy’ services also allow users to test the app’s functionality and make sure it suits their preferences. However, convenience and user-friendly architecture shouldn’t be the main criteria when deciding where to invest for the first time. It makes sense to download a number of options, try them out and compare the terms and conditions of their offer carefully.

When considering investing online for the first time, it makes sense to try out various platforms before starting to invest actual cash.

In some cases, the precise nature of the investment opportunity may not be clear, particularly to the novice online investor. For example, some platforms may appear to be offering a chance to buy stocks and shares, when in fact they are just giving the investor exposure to any movement in the value of the shares. If the investor wants to own shares, this may not be the right option for them.

In a climate of significant stock market volatility, interest in ‘safe haven’ assets such as gold has increased significantly. While there are fewer gold-buying platforms to choose from, there are still some important differences to be aware of. Gold Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs) are popular with some individuals because they provide an easy way of gaining exposure to any increases in the value of gold, whilst still having easy access to the funds if they are needed. On the other hand, gold investors looking to the longer term may prefer to own a physical asset, which has intrinsic value in countries around the world. Buying physical gold can now be achieved without incurring excessive entry and exit costs, making it possible for people with modest amounts of cash to invest incrementally in this luxury asset for the first time.

Before becoming an online investor, individuals should take a step back and consider their personal and financial objectives, taking into account the amount of money they can afford to invest and their risk appetite. These factors will not only influence their choice of asset class, but the features they look for when considering different investment platforms. If any platforms appear to be downplaying risk, over promising returns, or pushing the investor to spend money within a certain timeframe, they should be treated with caution.

As long as investors have taken the right steps to prepare themselves and understand the potential risks and rewards, online investing can be an empowering and enjoyable experience. What started as a new habit during the pandemic, could have a positive effect on financial wellbeing.

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