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Chinese stock trading apps turn to cryptocurrencies to compete abroad

Futu and Tiger Brokers are applying for licenses in Singapore and the U.S. that would allow local customers to trade digital currencies.

The move comes as Chinese regulators have increased their efforts to limit speculation in the market.

Robinhood, which launched bitcoin and ethereum trading in early 2018, has added 3 million customers a month for its crypto business this year. In April, U.K.-based cryptocurrency trading site Coinbase debuted on the Nasdaq, with a price of around $35,000.

In the financial world, demand for cryptocurrencies is high as bitcoin’s price surged to record levels above $60,000, before dropping sharply to around $30,000 last month.

Both Futu and Tiger Brokers got their start primarily from Chinese employees of major tech companies like Alibaba and Baidu. Since these companies are listed in the U.S., that piqued their employees’ interest in trading abroad. By the end of March, Futu said it had 789,652 customers with assets in their trading accounts, more than three times that of a year ago.

The two companies face competition not just from Robinhood but traditional players such as Interactive Brokers. They seek to attract customers with an in-app social network where users can swap trading ideas and watch investor education courses. The two firms also face competition from other retail trading companies such as Robinhood and InteractiveBrokers.

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