(Bloomberg) — When the coronavirus put a halt on people’s lives in China in February, Justin Jin’s old university classmates thought about selling face masks to make money. The 21-year-old suggested they instead try their luck with two stocks: Tesla Inc. and Tencent Holdings Ltd.
That’s when Jin’s two friends began using the Futubull app, one of the Chinese platforms that allow mainland investors to buy foreign equities. The decision paid off. Both stocks soared as part of a global rally that has enticed a wave of novice investors.
“When I first started, there were only three or four friends who used Futu,” Jin said. “Now there are at least three or four dozen.”
Thanks to them and many others, Futu Holdings Ltd., a Chinese online brokerage and wealth-management platform, now counts more than 1 million registered users, a 23% increase from the first quarter. Its American depositary receipts have almost quadrupled since a low in March, propelling the fortune of its founder and chairman, Leaf Hua Li, to $1.5 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.
Li, 43, was Tencent’s 18th founding employee and left to start Futu after growing frustrated with the software he used to trade Hong Kong stocks, according to a CapitalWatch interview in January. Futu, backed by the Chinese internet giant, was formally incorporated under Hong Kong law in April 2012. Li owns 40% of its outstanding shares.
A company spokesman declined to comment on Li’s net worth.
Retail investors have always been a driving force in China’s