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Robinhood and SoFi to sell pre-market IPO shares — and you might be the winner

Investors have a chance to buy into IPOs at offering prices usually reserved for hedge funds and big banks.

Online trading platforms Robinhood and SoFi have big plans on the horizon: not just to become publicly-traded companies but to allow retail investors to buy pre-IPO shares. Here’s how you can get in on the action.

Retail investors gain early access to IPO investing

Both Robinhood and SoFi have expressed interest in going public — a newsworthy opportunity in and of itself. But these online brokerages are also ready to offer pre-market IPO shares to their investors on a permanent basis.

The much-anticipated Robinhood IPO is on the way, but the app has started rolling out its platform for early IPO investing, IPO Access. SoFi is also in the process of going public via a SPAC merger with Social Capital Hedosophia, and as far as early IPO investing is concerned, its intentions are clear. SoFi has already built the technology to allow its users to buy pre-IPO shares ahead of their market debut — and the feature is available on its platform now.

How does SoFi’s IPO investing work?

Traders holding a SoFi Active Invest account with portfolios of at least $3,000 will be able to invest in IPOs. Here’s a breakdown of the process:

  1. Browse upcoming IPOs. Learn more about upcoming IPOs in the IPO Investing tab on SoFi’s mobile app. You’ll see how many shares you can request, the price and the estimated cost.
  2. Submit Indication of Interest (IOI). Indicate your interest in the offering by submitting the number of shares you’d like to purchase. An IOI isn’t a purchase order but will serve as a placeholder for those shares once they become available. You won’t be able to modify your IOI after it’s been submitted, but you can alter your order on pricing day. The minimum amount for an IOI is $40.
  3. Review your buying power. Check your account funds and confirm you have enough buying power to cover the cost of the order.
  4. Confirm your order. SoFi will send you an alert to let you know when it’s time to confirm your order on pricing day. Review your IOI and make any necessary changes. Complete the transaction by submitting your order.

SoFi warns that investors may not receive the number of shares they request when submitting an order for IPO investing due to availability constraints. If you don’t have an account with SoFi, read our SoFi review to decide whether this platform is a practical fit for your portfolio.

How does Robinhood’s IPO investing work?

Robinhood’s process sounds similar:

  1. Discover IPOs that Robinhood will have early shares of to offer. There will be a list on the trading app.
  2. Request shares to buy in the expected offering price range. You’ll make a final decision and can alter your order when a listed price is finalized.
  3. Watch and wait. Robinhood cautions that early IPO shares can be very limited but says all Robinhood customers will get an equal shot at shares.

How pre-IPO investing could change the market

It isn’t yet clear how often these brokers will be able to offer IPO shares to their users, or whether their IPOs will be sold this way.

But Robinhood and SoFi opening the door to pre-IPO investing is a big deal. It represents a potentially massive shift in the market, both for retail investors and companies going public. Pre-market investing is something typically reserved for big banks and hedge funds. Retail investors often can’t buy into newly public companies until IPO shares are publicly traded — typically at a higher price point than the official offer price.

Offering IPO investing to retail investors is a sizable step towards the democratization of IPO investing. Because all it takes is one or two platforms stepping forward to introduce something that benefits traders to initiate a domino effect among other brokers. Look at what happened in 2015 when Robinhood started to offer commission-free trades: in just a few years, almost every US broker dropped commissions to stay competitive.

And this is a lucrative market — especially for early investors.

The launch of Airbnb’s stock demonstrates the potential boom. Platform hosts were offered the opportunity to buy a limited number of shares at the pre-market price of $68. The day the company went public, its stock skyrocketed above $140 per share.

A significant opportunity exists for those who have the ability to buy shares ahead of a company’s public debut at the offering price. And for the most part, retail investors haven’t been given this opportunity — until now.

Risks of IPO investments

No investment is risk-free, and this holds especially true for those interested in initial public offerings. IPO investing is inherently risky. Shares of newly public companies tend to be volatile and may drastically fluctuate in price once available to the general public.

Before you invest in an IPO, make sure the stock is a practical fit for your portfolio and that you’re able to weather some volatility. You’ll also want to thoroughly vet the company you’re interested in by reviewing its balance sheet and financial history.

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Disclaimer: The value of any investment can go up or down depending on news, trends and market conditions. We are not investment advisers, so do your own due diligence to understand the risks before you invest.

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