What Robinhood’s warnings about crypto trading say about Coinbase’s near-term future

Is the trading boom of 2020 and 2021 slowing?

That’s a question The Exchange has had on its mind since Robinhood released its latest IPO filing. The popular U.S. consumer-focused investing app told investors in the document that it expects revenues to decline in the third quarter compared to its Q2 performance. The company highlighted historically strong crypto volumes in preceding quarters as part of the reason for its anticipated revenue decline.

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Naturally, we got to thinking about Coinbase.

It’s likely fair to say that Coinbase and Robinhood are bullish enough about the cryptocurrency market to be unbothered by short-term changes to crypto trading volumes. Coinbase discussed rising and falling consumer interest in trading cryptos in its own IPO filings, for example.

The now-public unicorn has lived through crypto ups and crypto downs. A decline in consumer interest in the next few months or quarters is not a huge deal, assuming one keeps a long enough perspective and the crypto-infused future that its fans expect comes to pass.

The boom in crypto demand among U.S. consumers lifted many a boat in recent quarters. Coinbase posted insanely good early-2021 results thanks to a bull run in cryptocurrency prices that drove retail interest and trading fees. Robinhood also saw a rush of crypto demand, something that TechCrunch explored here. And Square itself has seen crypto revenues explode.

Sure, equities interest and demand for options also elevated the fortune of many consumer fintechs during the COVID-19 savings and investing boom. But crypto revenues had a big part to play. Let’s examine both situations through the lens of the latest from Robinhood.

Robinhood’s market notes

There are some 316 mentions of “cryptocurrency” in Robinhood’s latest IPO filing. We’re going to stick to those we consider the most important.

As context, Robinhood shared preliminary Q2 data. We discussed it here if you want to go deeper into the aggregate figures. But after its disclosure of hard numbers, Robinhood had some interesting notes about the current quarter (emphasis TechCrunch):

Trading activity was particularly high during the first two months of the 2021 period, returning to levels more in line with prior periods during the last few weeks of the quarter ended June 30, 2021, and remained at similar levels into the early part of the third quarter. We expect our revenue for the three months ending September 30, 2021 to be lower, as compared to the three months ended June 30, 2021, as a result of decreased levels of trading activity relative to the record highs in trading activity, particularly in cryptocurrencies, during the three months ended June 30, 2021, and expected seasonality.

And in a discussion of some other performance metrics, including funded accounts and the like, Robinhood had this to say (emphasis TechCrunch):

We anticipate the rate of growth in these Key Performance Metrics will be lower for the period ended September 30, 2021, as compared to the three months ended June 30, 2021, due to the exceptionally strong interest in trading, particularly in cryptocurrencies, we experienced in the three months ended June 30, 2021, and seasonality in overall trading activities.

Falling revenue and slowing KPM growth is not really the world’s best set of metrics to flash up during an IPO run. But a quick scan of Robinhood’s 2020 revenues indicates it’s unlikely that the unicorn will be able to post year-over-year growth in the final two quarters of 2021. Still, its period of rapid-fire revenue growth appears to have come to an end after Robinhood posted top-line expansion in every quarter since Q4 2019.