In today’s “Financially Savvy Female“ column, we’re chatting with Christine Brown, chief operating officer at Robinhood Crypto. Before joining the company, Brown had never independently placed a trade because “the market just didn’t feel like it was for me or wanted me.” She has since become one of the original architects of Robinhood’s platform, and now has set her sights on pulling down barriers to entry for everyday investors interested in crypto, especially women. Here, Brown shares how she moved past her own apprehensions about investing, her favorite resources for women crypto investors and why you should consider adding crypto to your own portfolio.
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Tell me a little bit about your investing journey.
I feel like my story is actually similar to a lot of our customers. I had never independently placed a trade before starting at Robinhood. To me, it just felt really intimidating. I came out of college, I didn’t have a lot of money and it felt like investing was something that was for people that had this wealth that they needed to figure out what to do with. I was in an entry position. I was earning money but also had to pay things off, and it just felt like there were all these barriers to entry. I wasn’t familiar with the market and didn’t know how to choose stocks. I didn’t know what I should be investing in and so I just didn’t. I think that’s actually a story that we hear a lot — there are so many barriers and it’s so intimidating that people feel left out, and feel like it just isn’t for them. It’s made for people who already have all the knowledge they need.
I remember when I was interviewing at Robinhood I was like, I feel like I should get to know the product. So I downloaded the app. My perception of investing was that opening a brokerage account was what I saw in movies — I would have to go into a physical location, I would have to have all these documents, I would have to meet with a broker. And the experience I had opening up an account and being able to just explore and poke around and create a watch list, so I could see what was going on with no pressure to invest in anything [right away], it was just so easy. It was not what I was expecting.
The first investment I made was one single stock. I paid a little over $100 and that was my first trade. In my mind before that, I thought I would have to have a chunk of money saved up and I would have to allocate it across different investment strategies. I ended up buying a stock of a product that I use every single day. I thought, if I’m using this every day and I find it valuable, why not invest in this company?
What advice would you give to women who are wary about investing?
There are two pieces of advice I would give. The first is that investing doesn’t have to be a seismic shift in how you think about your money. You can start really small and build over time. The first trade I made was about $100 and that helped me dip my toe in, and I could see how I felt when the price went up or the price went down. It just opened up a learning moment for me. It doesn’t have to be this huge thing. You can start small.
The second thing is to not be intimidated by what you don’t know. Like a lot of people, I felt, I don’t know about the market. I wasn’t taught this, I didn’t come from a family that actively talked about money at the dinner table. But chances are high that a lot of other people are in the same boat as you with the things that you don’t know. See your lack of context or understanding not as a personal failing, but as a broader state of the world. You can actually see that as an advantage. We’re all a little confused.
This was something I learned on my journey with crypto. I was like, OK, not only is it investing-related, which is intimidating, but it also has a tech component. [It fell in] this intersection of two industries that are typically gated to women: tech and finance. There’s this perception of the “bitcoin bro” culture and that early adopters in the crypto space are heavily skewed male, but I realized, my lack of understanding is just like everyone’s lack of understanding because crypto is new. I thought, if I can turn around and educate myself, then it could be something that could really be advantageous for me.
What are some good resources for women who are interested in crypto, but are unsure where to start?
If you don’t know where to start, one thing that’s really helpful is to see representation and to get to know or follow women who are in this space. There are a few women that I admire: Elizabeth Stark, the co-founder and CEO of Lightning Labs; Meltem Demirors, chief strategy officer at CoinShares; Laura Shin, a journalist who started the podcast “Unchained,” which goes into crypto topics; and Hester Peirce, an [SEC] commissioner who has gotten the lovable name “crypto mom.” I think going out and finding people who have a voice that resonates with you, and hearing how they’re thinking about it and what they’re talking about can be a really simple way for you to educate yourself and find what does resonate with you in the industry.
What is a common misconception women have about crypto that you would like to dispel?
It gets backs to [the belief that] if you don’t understand every single thing about every single different cryptocurrency or blockchain that you can’t be an investor. You can start small — you can find one thing that really resonates with you and build from there. Because cryptocurrency is something that is not only in this financial/investing world, but it’s also in the tech world, it has this dual layer of intimidation, and I think that really turns people away at the onset. You don’t need to know every single thing. You don’t need to know exactly how it works to be interested in bitcoin or any other coin out there.
Why do you believe women should be actively investing in crypto?
Just like having a range of stocks inside your portfolio, having crypto allows you to add variety as well. Crypto also has utility — you can use it to make payments, you can buy different services, you can earn on it. It’s a really versatile investment. It’s easy for women to dip their toes in and see how they like it.
One thing that I’m really proud of and that I’m really excited about is that Robinhood has seven times the number of women crypto traders now compared to last year. We’re seeing growth on our platform of women coming and looking at crypto as a part of their financial strategy. At the end of Q1, 4 out of 10 of our women customers were crypto traders. I’m excited for that number to rise.
GOBankingRates wants to empower women to take control of their finances. According to the latest stats, women hold $72 billion in private wealth — but fewer women than men consider themselves to be in “good” or “excellent” financial shape. Women are less likely to be investing and are more likely to have debt, and women are still being paid less than men overall. Our “Financially Savvy Female” column will explore the reasons behind these inequities and provide solutions to change them. We believe financial equality begins with financial literacy, so we’re providing tools and tips for women, by women to take control of their money and help them live a richer life.
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