Tens of thousands of young Aussies reach into their pockets to get sharemarket kicks

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Disillusioned with his industry, former Perth stockbroker John Winters left his high-paying role in 2017 to bring the sharemarket to the masses.

Superhero cofounder John Winters.

Just six weeks into the launch of his trading platform Superhero, that decision seems to have paid off as tens of thousands of mostly young Australians flock to it.

Mr Winters has previously held positions at Macquarie Bank, Blackswan Equities, which is now part of Euroz and Shaw and Partners, and famously led the successful float of emerging fintech giant Zip Co.

Despite finding success in the stockbroking world, he would go home at night and question the industry, which prompted him to quit his job and link up with Booktopia boss Wayne Baskin to develop Superhero.

“It was a big risk. I think for me it was more of an ethical reason that aligned with my ambitions to build a business,” Mr Winters said.

“I have a fundamental issue with the way the stockbroking industry works in that brokers are typically remunerated as a percentage of volume and the more you trade the more you earn.

“There were times throughout my career, and Zip was a good example, it was in the client’s best interest not to do anything – but that’s not in the best interest of the broking firm.

“There was this conflict and it didn’t sit well with me.”

Superhero has managed to jump the regulatory hurdles and charges a flat fee of $5 per trade with a minimum investment of $100. Mr Winters said the platform’s focus was increasing accessibility to the stockmarket.

Backed by founders of both Afterpay and Zip Co, in the six weeks since the platform was launched Superhero has garnered 17,000 sign-ups.

About 70 per cent of those were in the 'Gen Z' and Millennial age bracket.

Mr Winters cited the popularity of no-fee US brokerage app Robinhood as an example of a generational shift that had been going on for some time, but had accelerated during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Boomers have always been the wealthier cohort, particularly in investment markets, but now they’re all in retirement wind-down phase,” he said.

“It is the younger generation who are starting to look at how they build their wealth and invest in the future and it’s really COVID that’s moved them into equity markets.”

Robinhood has attracted controversy in the US for bringing a cohort of people to the sharemarket with very little experience or understanding of it.

So far, most Robinhood users have reported good returns as they ride the post-COVID rise, but experts warn there may be tears in the future.

"Increase in stock market participation provides liquidity to the market and facilitates the flow of funds in the capital market," RMIT University fintech expert Angel Zhong said last month.

"However, increased participation by retail investors who are prone to behavioural biases may also increase the probability of irrational trading and disrupt the efficiency of the market.

"The rise in low-cost trading platforms and the associated increase in retail investors in the share market highlights the importance of financial literacy.

"With easy and low-cost trading platforms, retail investors may act on misleading information from social trading and suffer losses in a highly volatile market.

"Retail investors are easily influenced by unmoderated commentary on the market and investing."

At 28, Perth man Russell Touyz is smack-bang in the middle of the demographic of customers signing up to Superhero.

He had been trading on bank platforms for about five years, but made the move because of the lower fees.

He said he was not into the get-rich-quick ‘day trading’.

"My granny taught me about shares when I was young and one of the first things she ingrained in me was that day trading is gambling. I look at it in the long haul, but I have stuffed up every now and then," he said.

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