NEW YORK (Reuters) - Tony Weeresinghe says he wants to help educate underprivileged children, and he plans to do it one stock trade at a time.
The former head of global development for the London Stock Exchange Group on Wednesday launched Ustocktrade, a low-cost U.S. online retail brokerage that aims to “bring Wall Street to Main Street.”
Weeresinghe started Ustocktrade, a private stock trading platform known as an alternative trading system, to help fund a non-profit organization called the Cainan Foundation that he and his wife set up to build schools for disadvantaged children.
Profits from the brokerage will fund the foundation’s first school in Weeresinghe’s native Sri Lanka, with others to follow around the globe, he said in an interview.
“We wanted to build a boarding school where we would send our own children, not just a hut. That was our goal. And to do this, you need a war chest,” he said.
Early in his career, in 1996, Weeresinghe started a Sri Lanka-based software company called MilleniumIT. After selling the business 14 years later to the LSE for around $30 million, he was kept on and tasked with overhauling the exchange’s trading platform.
The new technology made LSE the world’s fastest exchange and helped reduce operating costs by 70 percent, he said.
He left the LSE in 2014 to focus on philanthropy and Ustocktrade.
The company, which generates revenue from a $1-a-month membership fee and a $1 per-trade fee, needs 20,000 users to break even, Weeresinghe said.
Part of the firm’s goal is to encourage non-traditional investors, such as university students and low-income earners, to take part in the stock market.
The value of orders on Ustocktrade is capped at $10,000 and high-frequency trading firms are kept out.
The brokerage does not send orders to other trading platforms. To help get trades get done, Ustocktrade is enlisting “superusers,” that will be the counterparties to trades that do not have a natural match.
There is only one superuser so far, but Ustocktrade is currently in talks with two or three others, Weeresinghe said. He declined to name of the superuser, but said the person or firm is obligated to not let any transactions fail during trading hours, and will trade for free in return.
Daniel Ham, a former chief operating officer of eBX LLC, the parent of trading venue Level ATS, and long-time Boston Stock Exchange executive, heads the company’s brokerage arm, Ustocktrade Securities.
Reporting by John McCrank; Editing by Cynthia Osterman