June 19, 2020 / 9:05 PM / 14 days ago

UPDATE 1-Robinhood details possible changes to options offering after suicide by customer

(Adds details on changes, background on customer)

By John McCrank and Anna Irrera

NEW YORK, June 19 (Reuters) - Robinhood Markets Inc said on Thursday it may make it harder to qualify to do sophisticated options trading on its platform and will improve its user interface after one of its customers took his own life after believing he incurred a large loss using the free trading app.

The company said in a blog post that it was also expanding its educational content for options trading, and was making a $250,000 donation to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

Alex Kearns, 20, died last Friday, leaving behind a note to his family that said he believed he had lost more than $730,000 trading options on Robinhood, Bill Brewster, his cousin by marriage, said in an interview.

In the note Kearns said he had no idea what he was doing when he was making the trades, according to Brewster.

"On Saturday, we learned that Alex Kearns, a Robinhood customer, died by suicide and left a note citing confusion with our product," said Robinhood's blog post penned by co-founders and co-chief executives Vladimir Tenev and Baiju Bhatt.

"We quickly reached out to Alex's family to share our condolences and offer to speak. We are personally devastated by this tragedy."

Brewster, who has been pushing on social media and in press interviews for Robinhood to make changes, said he was grateful for the response.

"To the people who felt under attack there, I am sorry, I know they are good people," Brewster said. "It was something I had to do and I appreciate them taking this seriously. Thank you."

Founded in 2013, Robinhood has been credited with helping usher commission-free trading throughout the retail brokerage industry. Many young customers quickly took to its app, which now counts more than 10 million users.

The Menlo Park, California-based company is among the most valuable venture-backed financial technology startups. Last month it raised $280 million from investors at an $8.3 billion valuation. (Reporting by Anna Irrera and John McCrank; Editing by Daniel Wallis)

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