Even in a year full of surprises on Wall Street, this one stands out: A Chinese-owned brokerage has quietly built one of the fastest-growing retail trading platforms in the U.S.
Webull, founded by Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. alum Wang Anquan, has increased its roster of brokerage clients about tenfold this year, to more than 2 million, by offering free stock trades with a slick online interface. Although that’s still a fraction of the more than 13 million at Robinhood Markets Inc., the broker that popularized commission-free trading, Webull says it’s been peeling off users from its rival.
Webull’s breakneck U.S. expansion is almost unheard of for a Chinese-owned financial company, particularly at a time when relations between the two countries have sunk to their lowest point in decades. The superpower clash that began with trade has recently moved into the financial realm, with the outgoing Trump administration mulling restrictions on Chinese payment platforms and pushing for rules that threaten to kick Chinese companies offU.S. exchanges.
While Webull’s ownership has attracted some attention in online forums, the firm goes out of its way to emphasize its U.S. links. It stores user data locally, is subject to the same regulations as any other U.S. brokerage, and has an office right next to 40 Wall Street, a Trump building. It also voluntarily sought a review of its ownership by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S. (Cfius), a panel that has blocked U.S. expansion plans by some Chinese-owned companies on national security grounds, says Webull Chief Executive Officer Anthony Denier, an American. Cfius gathered information from Webull but decided in December that it wouldn’t conduct a review, Denier says. The U.S. Department of the Treasury, whose secretary chairs Cfius, says it doesn’t comment on cases before the committee, including whether a company has filed for review.
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