Revolut launched five years ago as a pre-paid debit card, helping travellers to switch cheaply between currencies. Now 13 million people use its app to streamline their finances — from stock trading to savings, cryptocurrencies to travel insurance.
Diversification has cushioned the blow from the coronavirus, which halted overseas card spending virtually overnight. Britain locked down on the same day that Revolut launched in America, yet it says the number of new customers signing up has returned to pre-pandemic levels of 10,000 a day. The London company has had to cut costs, however, and about 60 of its 2,000 employees have lost their jobs, with the founders not drawing salaries since March. Sustained disruption in global travel will make product innovation even more necessary in an ultra-competitive space.
After a $500m (£380m) series-D funding round in February, when Covid-19 was looming on the horizon, Revolut held on to its $5.5bn valuation in a subsequent $80m funding extension in July, led by US private equity firm TSG Consumer Partners. It is now Europe’s most valuable financial technology firm, alongside Checkout.com (No 55), which appears for a second year, and Swedish bank and credit company Klarna.
Founders Nik Storonsky, 36, and Vlad Yatsenko, 37, have set their sights beyond Europe, with America a key target for expansion. Revolut’s app will go live in Japan later this year and is already used by customers in Australia and Singapore as well as America.
Storonsky, a former Lehman Brothers trader who was made redundant after the 2008 crash, envisages Revolut as a financial services “super app”, allowing customers to seamlessly manage all aspects of their financial lives.
The strategy involves applying for full banking licences in the UK and America, which will allow customers to make deposits and borrow money. It already has one in Lithuania and is rolling out full banking services across Eastern Europe. Revolut offers its standard account for free, generating revenue via commission on interchange fees. It also offers premium accounts priced from £6.99 to £12.99 a month, and has nearly half a million business customers.
Recruitment and marketing costs saw Revolut rack up losses of £107.4m last year, but it says it is on the path to profitability. Sales growth has been astronomical, averaging 310% annually over three years to hit £162.7m in 2019, up from £2.4m in 2016. Revolut – No 1 last year – retains its spot as the UK’s fastest-growing private technology company, the first to do so in the 20-year history of the Tech Track 100.
Success has not come without growing pains. Concerns about compliance saw City veterans recruited to improve the company’s governance. Former Standard Life Aberdeen boss Martin Gilbert is chairman, while Richard Davies, previously at Barclays and HSBC, spent a year as Revolut’s chief of banking and is now a non-executive director, alongside former Goldman Sachs boss Michael Sherwood.
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