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Review: Webull

by Apoorv Trivedi on
Webull Featured image

The Bottom Line

Webull is the mobile first broking platform of the Xiaomi backed Chinese fintech, Fumi Technology.

In Singapore, Webull currently offers access to only stocks & options in USA and stocks in Hong Kong. Their app is very similar in terms of features and UI to the Tiger and moomoo apps but has less gamification and no community interactions features for now.

Webull offers truly zero commission trading for US (both stocks and options, no platform fee either) permanently and on a promotional basis for Hong Kong.

However, their all-in trading cost is in the middle of the pack for USA and the highest in the market for Hong Kong due to the very high FX conversions spreads.

You can benefit from the true zero commission trading if you already have USD or HKD and don’t need to make the conversion on Webull platform. This may be a viable option for very active traders.

We continue to recommend Interactive Brokers as our top pick for most people due to lower all-in pricing and top notch tools & data.

Webull
Zero Commission but high FX spread

Webull app is very similar to Tiger & moomoo. However they offer true zero commission trades (no platform fee, unlike others) in USA but charge high FX spreads. Free only if you already have the FX.


What is Webull?

Webull is an online broker headquartered in Delaware, USA. It is operating and regulated in 3 countries, USA, Hong Kong and Singapore. Webull launched in May 2022 and currently offers Singapore based users access to stocks and options in USA and to stocks in Hong Kong.

Webull was founded in 2017 by Wang Anquan, a former employee of Alibaba. It is owned by Fumi Technology, a Chinese holding company backed by Xiaomi and Shunwei Capital, among others.

Webull is licensed and regulated by the FINRA in USA, SFC in Hong Kong and MAS in Singapore. They have a Capital Market Services license in Singapore, including for custodial services.

Webull MAS license
Webull is licensed by MAS

As of July 2021, they had 2.7mm active users and more than 10mm registered user in USA.


How is it different from other brokers?

Pricing Webull offers free trading of stocks and options in USA. As a part of their launch promotion they are also offering free trading in Hong Kong stocks for now. This makes them the second broker after TDAmeritrade that offers free trading of US stocks in Singapore.

However in our testing, we got very high FX conversion spreads, among the highest of any broker in Singapore. We paid 0.55% for SGD to USD conversion and 1.93% (!) for SGD to HKD conversion.

Taking this spread into account, Webull’s all-in pricing puts it in the more expensive half of all the brokers in Singapore for US stocks and makes it the most expensive option for Hong Kong, even with the free trading promotion.

Coverage At present Webull only offers access to US and Hong Kong stock markets. Most other brokers in Singapore (except TDAmeritrade) allow you to also trade stocks on SGX, at least. Since Webull has received a CMS license from MAS, we expect that they will launch this soon and catch up with their peers. However the management has not announced anything on this so far.

Apps While Webull offers apps for desktop and mobile in USA, Singapore based users are restricted to the mobile App for now. Their mobile app is very similar to the apps offered by Tiger & moomoo, with similar data and other functionality.

However the Webull app is less gamified for now and does not have the constant pop-ups offering promotions and other incentives for engagement. It is missing community features like the message boards etc. found on many other apps.

These are apparently available in US and may possibly come soon to SG app.


What are their fees like?

Webull offers zero commission permanently for US stocks & options and on a promotional basis for HK stocks. However we paid very high spreads for FX conversions on the platform.

This made the all-in trading cost on the Webull platform quite high, putting it in the more expensive half of brokers in Singapore for US stocks and making it the most expensive broker for Hong Kong.

Trading Commission moomoo and Tiger have also recently launched their own zero commission pricing, where the so called trading commission is zero. You still pay a platform fee though, after the promotional period, which is also effectively a trading commission.

Webull on the other hand does have true zero trading commission pricing for US as they do not have a separate platform fee at all.

US Market Fees - Stocks
Zero Trading & Platform fees for US Stocks
US Market Fees - Options
Zero Trading & Platform fees for US Options

During the promotional period, this is also true for Hong Kong, as the trading commission is zero and there is no platform fee. However we do not know how long this promotion will last and what the trading fee will be once the promotion is over.

HK Market Fees
Zero Trading & Platform fees for Hong Kong Stocks

FX Conversion Spreads are not commonly advertised or discussed but our research shows they are often as important as the trading commission in contributing to the all-in cost of trading.

We looked at the quoted FX conversion spreads on the Webull app for SGD to USD and SGD to HKD.  We compared those with the spreads on similar apps like Tiger and moomoo at the same time. We also compared them against the mid-price available on OANDA at the same time.

Next we carried out 4 FX conversions to see if the actual cost of converting currencies was similar to the quoted price.

We converted SGD to USD & back and SGD to HKD & back.

The numbers we have used in our analysis are based on the actual transactions spreads that were charged to us for these four transactions. The actual spread we paid was slightly lower than the indicative spread shown initially in the app, for both USD and HKD.

We found that the FX conversion spreads on Webull were on average 0.25% higher (0.30% vs. 0.55%) than peers for USD and 1.42% higher (0.51% vs. 1.93%) for HKD.

Table 1: FX Spreads: Webull vs. Others

  Webull:
Indicative
Spread
Webull:
Received
Spread
Peers’
Average
Spread
Interactive
Brokers’
Spread
USD 0.63% 0.55% 0.30% 0.003%
HKD 2.04% 1.93% 0.51% 0.04%

 

SGD to HKD Conversion Rate
We paid 0.77¢ for a $20 round trip: SGD -> HKD -> SGD. That's 1.93% for each leg.
HKD to SGD Conversion Rate
We paid 0.77¢ for a $20 round trip: SGD -> HKD -> SGD. That's 1.93% for each leg.
Webull vs Futu FX Spread HKD
Futu vs. Webull: Indicative HKD FX Spread
Webull vs. Futu Spread USD
Futu vs. Webull: Indicative USD FX Spread

Table 2: Indicative Exchange Rates (Bid / Ask): Webull vs. OANDA

  Webull OANDA
HKD Bid 5.6181 5.7384
HKD Ask 5.8754 5.7399
Spread 0.2573 0.0015
Spread % 4.58% 0.03%
USD Bid 1.3575 1.3673
USD Ask 1.3751 1.3675
Spread 0.0176 0.0002
Spread % 1.30% 0.01%

In our interaction with Webull helpdesk, we were told many times that Webull does not charge a fee for FX conversions. While this is technically correct, for all practical purposes this is a fee that you are paying.

Unlike taxes and exchange fees etc. that you pay no matter which broker you use, these high FX spreads are specific to Webull and so we include them in the all-in cost of trading.

Its possible that this spread is not charged by Webull but by a 3rd party handling the FX conversion for them. But it is still a very high spread and you could get a much lower spread at another broker quite easily. Because of these reasons we still attribute this cost to Webull.

All-in Trading Cost is our preferred metric for comparing the pricing given by different brokers. To get this we add the trading fee, platform fee, the FX conversion spread and (in some cases) the custody fee.

On this metric, Webull falls in the middle of the pack for US stocks despite the zero commission, which is offset by the high FX spread. This is true for both long term investors who convert FX once and trade infrequently and for the more active traders, who convert once and trade often.

The 1.93% FX spread for SGD to HKD conversions are very high and we hope temporary. At that level, Webull is actually the most expensive broker for trading Hong Kong stocks even for very active traders, since the spread is 3-4x higher than peers more than offsets any trading commission the peers may charge.

All-in S$ cost for a Buy & Hold investor deploying S$50K in USA
All-in S$ cost for a Buy & Hold investor deploying S$50K in USA
All-in S$ cost for a Buy & Hold investor deploying S$50K in Hong Kong
All-in S$ cost for a Buy & Hold investor deploying S$50K in Hong Kong
All-in S$ cost for an active Trader managing an S$50K portfolio in USA
All-in S$ cost for an active Trader managing an S$50K portfolio in USA
All-in S$ cost for an active Trader managing an S$50K portfolio in Hong Kong
All-in S$ cost for an active Trader managing an S$50K portfolio in Hong Kong

What if I already have USD or HKD? If you already have the currency in which you want to trade, Webull does accept Telegraphic transfers in both USD and HKD. In this case you do not need to pay any fees or conversion spread and you really benefit from the zero commission.

Very active traders could even consider making the FX conversion in another account and depositing the proceeds in Webull to benefit from zero commission trading.

We do not advise this for most long term investors as trading cost is relatively less important to your long term returns and our pick, Interactive Brokers offers much better tools to evaluate and manage your portfolio.

Margin Lending Webull has a somewhat different approach to margin trading than peers. While most brokers lend up to 50-80% of your existing portfolio (depending on the riskiness on stocks in it), Webull lends against the cash you have deposited in the account.

Against a deposit of S$1,000 for e.g., you can get a leverage of 2-4x (i.e. buy stock worth S$2K – 4K) depending on what their system permits for that stock. Any gains on that position are not eligible for further leverage till you close the position and realize the gains.

Webull charges 3.5% for margin funding in USA and 4.5% for Hong Kong. These rates are competitive vs. peers but slightly higher than our pick, IB.

Webull Margin Lending Rates
Margin Lending Rates

What tools and data do they have?

Webull currently only offers access to mobile app in Singapore. They do have a desktop app for their US customers, but it is not available here yet.

This is a weakness for Webull as most other brokers in Singapore do offer a desktop apps which have more advanced functionality that is essential for advanced traders.

The Webull mobile app is very similar to those offered by moomoo and Tiger and we think people familiar with those two will feel right at home in the Webull app.

Webull Watchlist
Watchlist on Webull App
moomoo Watchlist
Watchlist on moomoo App
Webull Chart
Chart & Summary Data on Webull App
moomoo Chart
Chart & Summary Data on Webull App
Financial Information on Webull App
Financial Information on Webull App
Financial Information on moomoo App
Financial Information on moomoo App
Quarterly Earnings on Webull App
Quarterly Earnings on Webull App
Quarterly Earnings on moomoo App
Quarterly Earnings on moomoo App

As you can see from the screenshots, the layout, UI and data on the Webull app is quite similar to the moomoo app.

There are some differences e.g. the Watchlist in moomoo app is much more data rich and customizable, Webull appears to have better financial summary reports  etc. We do not think the differences are meaningful on their own.

Having explored those other apps before, we were able to set up our preferred layout on the Webull app very quickly and it offered nearly all of the functionality that we expected.

Task App
Create a watchlist with 15 stocks Y
Link the watchlist to a charting screen with 1 technical indicator Y
Link the watchlist to a fundamental screen with news, call transcripts, data on valuation, shareholding, estimates etc. Y
Set up a price alert Y
Launch an order screen from the watchlist Y
Look at exposure summary report for the portfolio with risk metrics Y*
Look at performance summary report over custom time periods Y*
Import / Export transaction history N
*These reports are available but only have very basic data items and are not customizable.

The datasets available on the Webull app are nearly identical to what most brokers offer. You can get news from Reuters.com, basic historical financial data for companies like Revenue mix, profitability and other ratios, data on major shareholders and events etc.

They also offer earnings and few other estimates for the coming quarter but projections are quite limited just like most peers.

Interestingly Webull offers pricing data for many markets that are not available for trading on the app e.g. Singapore, India etc. This is usually delayed by 15min but you can track stocks in these other markets just like those in US and HK.

Customer Service We asked a number of questions to the Webull customer service. We were able to get the correct answers for most questions on the first try. We like the fact that you don’t need to muscle past a bot to get response from a human.

However, unlike moomoo, where we could get a live agent very quickly and chat with them in real time, on the Webull app our questions were answered about 10-25min after we dropped them in the chat box.

You also have the option of reaching out to them on their Singapore helpdesk to speak to a person.

Community & Gamification Although Webull app has a strong community aspect in the USA, we did not find these features in the Singapore app.

In our testing we also did not see any attempt at gamifying trading e.g. special rewards or badges for actions like participating in the community or logging in for 7 consecutive days or making a certain number of trades.

This type of gamification is very visible in apps like moomoo and Tiger and totally missing in Webull. We think that’s a point in favor of Webull but to each his own.


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