Robinhood is expanding into Charlotte. Yep, that Robinhood. The fintech company that made worldwide news with the Gamestop short squeeze. It will add nearly 400 jobs at new offices Uptown.
Details: The Charlotte office at Legacy Union will focus on customer support account operations. Here, Robinhood will hire analysts, operations personnel, and customer experience and account operations staffers who will assist customers with financial advice.
Why it matters: Charlotte has quietly become a top five tech city over the past decade, with the debut of out-of-towners like Centene and Better.com, and the expansion of locally based companies like Lowe’s and AvidXchange.
- Tuesday’s news means a new relationship with a powerful company that was able to raise nearly $3 billion in capital over the course of a single weekend in January.
- Robinhood will invest nearly $12 million in its new local office. It’s already posted jobs.
“With the second-largest financial center in the nation, North Carolina is one of the fastest growing tech hubs where companies like this know they can flourish,” Gov. Cooper said in a statement.
The big picture: At the same time, a huge new survey shows that overall trust in tech has cratered in the past two years, Axios’s Ina Fried reports today. It creates an interesting question for Charlotte, a city that loves to celebrate new arrivals: Is tech the settle-down-and-marry type, or just an economic development fling?
Robinhood, based in Menlo Park, California, has no doubt made it easier for an untrained investor to get in the Wall Street game. Its app is commission-free, and open to everyone.
“There have been two great inequities that need equalizers: One is home ownership, I think,” City Council member Tariq Bokhari told us. “And the second is investing. Not just making money and spending it, but making your money work for you.”
Yes, but: Pioneering isn’t easy, and Robinhood has become a company people love and hate, Axios’ Felix Salmon reported.
In January, retail investors flocked to the app to trade shares of GameStop and other “stonks,” and Robinhood ultimately suspended GameStop trading. CEO Vlad Tenev was grilled on Capitol Hill for Robinhood’s actions during the GameStop saga.
Incentives: In exchange for creating 389 new jobs in Charlotte, Robinhood could receive nearly $4 million in incentives from the state over 12 years. The city is offering another $157,000. Mecklenburg County does not have a business investment grant tied to the Robinhood expansion.
For its new office, Robinhood also considered St. Louis, Denver, Tempe, and Fort Mill, North Carolina’s Economic Investment Committee said in a meeting.
Between the lines: Bokhari, 41, tells us he started conversations with Robinhood last summer, long before GameStop was anything more than a place where he bought video games as a kid.
Bokhari founded Carolina Fintech Hub, a nonprofit that he considers a mini-chamber of commerce for recruiting tech businesses. He introduced Robinhood’s company leadership to other business leaders in the Carolina Fintech’s network of partners — including Bank of America, Truist, Ally and others.
- Then he introduced them to the city leadership, which of course also includes him.
Zoom out: Bokhari’s dual roles sometimes create tangles. He spent much of last July mired in a conflict of interest dispute over whether his nonprofit should receive CARES Act money to train more people for tech careers in the pandemic.
- The dispute, though, spoke to a larger story of Charlotte’s relationship with fintech, and how it’s now intertwined everything that happens, from economic development to social mobility, blurring traditional lines.
- “My bar has to be higher than anybody else’s,” says Bokhari, who was recently named chair of the business and workforce development committee.
As the GameStop situation bubbled, other city leaders wondered whether Robinhood was the right addition. Bokhari insisted it was.
- “I was watching it with this crazy interest because we were on the tail-end of this deal,” Bokhari said Tuesday. “They had a billion things going on, and they were just muscling through this [deal with Charlotte] — all while being world’s most famous and most known fintech brand at that time!”
Charlotte office: Robinhood recently filed a construction permit for 650 S. Tryon, as CBJ reported last week. The building, anchored by Deloitte, is an 18-story tower that’s part of the Legacy Union development. A representative for developer Lincoln Harris did not respond to a request for comment.