Former London Stock Exchange exec launches investment startup to fund schools

Traders on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange during the IPO of Performance Food Group.
Traders on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange during the IPO of Performance Food Group.

A former London Stock Exchange executive is launching a new online investing platform that aims to pad pockets on Main Street and build schools in the developing world by giving entry-level investors the chance to win big on Wall Street.

Ustocktrade is an online stock broker with tools meant to help demystify the stock market, including a trading simulator that lets investors try their luck without the risk of losing real money. It’s part of founder and CEO Tony Weeresinghe’s mission to make the elite world of securities trading a little more populist.

“Whether you are rich or poor, the fundamentals of a company don’t change. What changes is the education to understand when to get in, and when to get out,” Weeresinghe said.

Though the Newton-based startup isn’t the first online broker to say it makes playing the markets a walk in the park, it is one of the cheapest. The company charges a $1 monthly membership fee and a $1 per trade commission, compared to the $9.99 and $7.95 charges levied larger competitors TD Ameritrade and Fidelity Investments.

Ustocktrade’s website lets users trade all listed securities, but leaves out the option to trade riskier, financial instruments like derivatives. “We don’t want people to lose money,” Weeresinghe said.

Students and young people are some of the site’s target users. One feature they might particularly appreciate? Same-day cash-outs. Weeresinghe said his company is the only online broker to guarantee users can settle their trade the same day they make it.

Weeresinghe is no stranger to the world of finance. He launched Ustocktrade after spending two decades developing finance automation systems for some of the biggest stock markets in the world. In 2009, the Sri Lanka native joined the London Stock Exchange after it purchased his company, MilleniumIT, for $30 million.

MillenniumIT’s technology was used to rebuild the software behind the London exchange’s trading system, and Weeresinghe served as the exchange’s director of global development. He left the exchange five years later to focus on two new ventures.

Ustocktrade was founded with the primary purpose of funding his nonprofit, the Cainan Foundation, which aims to build boarding schools in poor areas around the world. He said he’s in final negotiations with the Sri Lankan government to determine the location of the foundation’s first project in that county.

Boston is a good example, he said, of how top-notch schools can help develop and revitalize a location. “I believe that to bring about change for people in poverty we must give them a first-world education. We wanted to have a school built that we would send our own children to,” Weeresinghe said.

Globe correspondent Amanda Burke can be reached at amanda.burke@globe.com.
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