Revolut is a UK neobank integrated with a multi-currency debit card. The Revolut app allows you to convert funds from one currency to another at the interbank rate, exchange cryptocurrencies, make free money transfers anywhere in the world, as well as buy insurance and apply for loans.
The first idea when creating Revolut was a multi-currency bank card that would allow you to convert currencies while traveling at a favorable rate. The first investor in the project was the creator of the project, Nikolai Storonsky, who invested about £300,000 of his own savings. A few months later, the entrepreneur invited former Deutsche Bank developer Vlad Yatsenko to the startup, who became technical director. In the spring of 2014, Storonsky turned to banking and card infrastructure consultant David Parker for help. The financier was skeptical about the project at first, but Storonsky paid him for two working days and wrote down everything he said. The first prototype of Revolut was ready at the beginning of 2015, and in July 2015 the application was fully operational. “When 2,000 people came in the first days, it was difficult. We had only four people on the team and two in support,” said Yatsenko.
Revolut’s original business plan was to have 30,000 users after a year of operation. In reality it turned out to be 10 times more. “When I wrote the business plan, I didn’t even think about it – I just put the figure at 30,000, assuming that it could be much less or much more. In the end, it turned out 10 times more,” Storonsky says in an interview with Forbes. Almost immediately after its launch in 2015, Revolut tried to enter the Russian market, but encountered a problem: for topping up from Russian cards, the service had to pay an additional 2% per transaction. And in the fall of 2016, the service announced that it was leaving Russia.
“It was a brilliant idea for the British market. By allowing users to convert currencies within the app, they were able to attract thousands of users every day without spending on advertising. No one has done this before,” says Forbes. Revolut grew quickly and attracted 100,000 users in the first six months. Nikolai Storonsky has said more than once that at that time the company did not spend anything on marketing – word of mouth worked. According to the PitchBook database, Storonsky’s company received its first seed investments in February 2016 in the amount of $4.9 million at a valuation of $13.19 million (investors included the British fund Balderton Capital and the German Point Nine Capital), and in July 2016 Round A of Revolut received another $12.02 million at a valuation of $48.85 million (Index Ventures and Ribbit became new investors).
In parallel with attracting venture capital investments, Nikolai Storonsky decided to launch a crowdfunding campaign (Revolut had two in total – in 2016 and 2017). Perhaps Storonsky and his team were inspired by the success of their closest competitor, the British neobank Monzo. “I’m pleased to announce that we raised £1 million in 96 seconds, the fastest fundraising in history – over £10,000 in a second,” Tom Blomfield, CEO of Monzo, wrote on the corporate blog. Storonsky hoped to use crowdfunding to attract not only money, but also new clients: “10,000 private investors bring much more new users than one investment fund.” His calculation paid off: 433 private investors invested £1 million in Revolut, one of them did not spare £500,000. It received great publicity that one of the investors was British tennis player Andy Murray.
How does Revolut work?
Revolut positions itself as a digital alternative to banking, with lower-cost currency exchange services and cheaper financial transactions. Initially, users were offered a prepaid card and an app that allowed travelers to use different currencies without additional costs. Since then, the range of products and services has been expanded, and Revolut’s new features include:
- cryptocurrency exchange
- travel insurance services
- cost analytics
- international transfers
- interest on the balance
The fintech application allows the user to quickly open a bank account and issue a physical or virtual card. When you deposit money into your account, you can immediately select a convenient currency. You can manage your account through the application.
Unlike British competitors such as Monzo and Starling, Revolut’s priority is international expansion rather than creating a full-service bank in one country – the ability to choose your IBAN country and account currency(s).
Following Brexit, the company obtained a banking license in Lithuania to continue operating in the EU, and also applied for UK and US licenses.
Revolut Company Review
The founders of Revolut are Nikolai Storonsky and Vlad Yatsenko. Storonsky was born in Russia, but since the age of 20 he has lived in Great Britain and is its citizen. In 2022, Nikolai renounced Russian citizenship.
Vlad Yatsenko is of British-Ukrainian descent and has lived in the United Kingdom since 2010.
Before founding the startup, Storonsky worked for Credit Suisse and the international financial company Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc, and Yatsenko spent five years creating financial systems for large investment banks such as Deutsche Bank.
The founders say they started their project because they were disappointed with how long traditional banks were taking to introduce digital services for young customers who prefer to conduct all transactions through a smartphone.
The Revolut startup was launched in July 2015 based on the Level39 technology accelerator. Yatsenko holds the position of CTO, and Storonsky is the CEO of the company.
The primary focus of Revolut’s business is on services for tourists. Despite the sector’s decline during the pandemic, the company’s total revenue grew by 34% in 2020.
- As of the end of 2020, Revolut had over 14.5 million retail users and 500 thousand companies among its clients.
- The company’s revenue for 2020 reached $361 million, a 57% increase compared to 2019.
- Total income amounted to $170 million.
- In the second half of 2020, Revolut achieved profitability.
In 2021, Revolut became the most valuable startup in the UK with a valuation of $33 billion. The investment round was led by the Japanese holding company SoftBank and the American investment firm Tiger Global Management.
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Pros and Cons of Revolut
Let’s explore the advantages and disadvantages of the neobank Revolut, which is particularly suitable for several user categories:
- For Travelers: Unlike traditional banks, Revolut supports multiple currencies, allowing users to pay in the currency they need at the moment.
- For Those Receiving and Sending Payments Abroad: Unlike traditional banks that automatically convert payments into the account currency, adding their spread and service fee, the Revolut app displays the payment amount in the currency it is received, and the user can decide whether to exchange the money.
- For Traders: Another interesting feature is easy access to trading stocks on the US stock exchange and cryptocurrency trading within the app.
However, Revolut has limitations:
- Revolut does not provide detailed information about stock and company prices, and users can only trade a limited number of securities.
- The app does not allow payments via QR code.
- The service does not support traditional bank transfers. Since the account is de facto located in the UK, data for international payments (such as SWIFT and BIC) are required.
The service currently offers four tariff plans:
- Standard: Free basic package, including a free card. Cash withdrawal limit without commission is €200 per month or five withdrawals per month. Interest on the balance is 0.15% per annum. Currency exchange up to £1,000 per month at the interbank exchange rate. Cryptocurrency exchange fee is 2.5%.
- Plus: €2.99 per month. In addition to the features of the standard plan, it offers free card delivery. Interest on the balance is 0.3% per annum. Includes insurance and ticket refunds for events.
- Premium: €7.99 per month. Free express card delivery. Cash withdrawal limit without commission is €400 per month. One international account payment per month without commission. Interest on the balance is 0.65% per annum. Unlimited currency exchange at the interbank exchange rate. Cryptocurrency exchange fee is 1.5%. Free medical insurance for travelers, baggage insurance.
- Metal: €13.99 per month. In addition to the features of the premium plan, it offers an increased cash withdrawal limit without commission of €800 per month. Exclusive metal card and cashback — 0.1% per annum in Europe and 1% outside Europe. Three international account payments per month without commission.
Money Transfers in Revolut
The service does not charge a fee for transfers in euros within the Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA).
For transfers in local currencies, for example, sending Polish złoty from France to Poland, there is a fixed fee of 0.3%, not less than £0.3, and not more than £5.
Users of the “Premium” or “Metal” tariff plans can make 1 or 3 international transfers without a fee.
In 2022, the company launched the Revolut Pay online payment service, aiming to compete with PayPal and Apple in the online trading service market.
For retailers, the commission will be around 1%, and consumers can receive cashback for purchases.
The service has been criticized for insufficient security. According to Telegraph, from July to September 2018, the neobank disabled the automatic system designed to block suspicious transfers.
Internal investigation of the incident took place only at the end of 2018. The decision was made after the system blocked 8 thousand legitimate transactions. Revolut’s Chief Legal Officer, Tom Hambrett, stated that the system was disabled by mistake. In September 2018, the company introduced a new anti-fraud system.
Regulators in the UK had previously suspected the neobank of conducting illegal operations through the platform, and the Lithuanian government conducted multiple checks on Revolut before granting it a banking license.
Revolut invests a significant portion of the funds raised in the compliance direction. According to the Revolut website, suspicious transactions are now identified by a machine learning-based algorithm, and its anti-fraud system is 7 times better than those of major banks.
Registration in Revolut
Before using the service, make sure it is available in the user’s country. Registration takes place in 5 steps:
- Download the app from the App Store or Google Play Store.
- Launch the app, enter the phone number, and set a password for the account.
- Enter the 6-digit PIN code from the SMS into the app.
- Provide name, mailing address, email, social security number, or individual taxpayer identification number.
- Read and accept the terms of the agreement.
Rapid Rise of Revolut
In April 2018, Revolut’s valuation soared to $1.7 billion. Venture fund DST Global, led by Yuri Milner, and a group of investors invested $250 million in the company.
In March 2018, the transaction volume on the service reached $1.6 billion, and the number of users reached 2 million. Revolut planned to spend the raised funds on entering the US, Canada, Singapore, Hong Kong, New Zealand, and hiring 350 to 800 employees. According to Storonsky, Revolut’s entry into a new market costs the company $0.5–1.5 million, excluding team hiring.
After an unsuccessful attempt to enter the Russian market in 2015, Storonsky stated that it would be more interesting for Revolut to first conquer the US, Southeast Asia, and Australia with New Zealand.
In late 2018, Revolut obtained a banking license in Lithuania.
The last week of February 2019 was challenging for Revolut. Besides reports of issues with the transaction monitoring system, there were materials criticizing the corporate culture in Revolut. The financial director, Peter O’Higgins, left the company after reports in the press that the service had disabled the system tracking suspicious transactions for several months.
Storonsky mentioned that the departure of the financial director is related to the company’s scaling. The Wired reported, citing former Revolut employees, that the fast growth of the company comes at a cost to those working there. Employees face unpaid work and unattainable goals, and the company has a high turnover rate.
After publications on Revolut’s corporate culture, Storonsky published an open letter on the company’s blog explaining the situation: “We made mistakes in the past, including in hiring. From each mistake, we have learned a lesson and are moving forward. Everything else is greatly exaggerated.”
Revolut Card Overview
Revolut’s primary product since its inception is the multi-currency payment card. This card allows for nearly fee-free instant money transfers in 30 currencies and can be used for purchases and cash withdrawals in 150 currencies, including Russian rubles, US dollars, euros, and British pounds. All transactions are conducted at the interbank exchange rate, helping users save on currency conversions.
The card also supports cryptocurrencies, but this functionality is not available in all countries. Bitcoin, Ethereum, Litecoin, Ripple, and some other popular cryptocurrencies are supported.
How to Get a Revolut Card
The card is issued online with postal delivery. Revolut has no branches or field specialists; all interactions with clients are remote. The card can be obtained in the following countries:
- United States of America
- European Economic Area
To apply, use the mobile app. Install it on your device, provide your phone number, and set a PIN code for transaction verification. Then, input personal and passport details and upload scanned copies of your passport and residency document for identity confirmation. After successful identity confirmation, activate the account by transferring a small amount, typically within the range of £5-£10.
A virtual card is available immediately after registration, suitable for online use or linking to your smartphone. You can also order a physical card by specifying the delivery address. The completed card will be delivered by mail within 1-10 business days to a branch or residential address, with a delivery fee ranging from £4.99 depending on the receiving country.
Using the Revolut Card
The card is managed through the online bank and a mobile app (available for iOS and Android). They provide all necessary functionality for payments and transaction monitoring. Security settings, beyond setting limits or restrictions, include additional options such as disabling contactless or magnetic.
Switching between currency accounts and transferring between them is done in the app. For payments and exchanges, 30 currencies are available, including US dollars, euros, British pounds, yen, and Swiss francs. You can fund any of the accounts with cash or from another card, including from an external bank. It’s advisable to deposit money in the account’s currency to avoid additional conversion. Auto-payments and money requests from other service clients are available. Additional fees may apply for transfers to countries where the service is not present.
When making purchases or withdrawing cash in a currency different from the account’s currency, the exchange is done at the interbank exchange rate. For almost all currencies in the main list, no commissions are charged. However, on weekends (considered in London time), surcharges of 0.5-1% are applied for maintaining the exchange rate. Cash can be withdrawn from any ATM, but cash deposits are not available.
For one client, up to three plastic and up to five virtual cards can be issued simultaneously. Reissuing a plastic card in case of loss, theft, or card compromise costs £5, while planned reissues are free. Delivery is charged separately depending on the tariff and region. Issuing and closing virtual cards are free of charge.
Advantages of the Revolut Card
Overall, the Revolut card appears to be convenient for active use. The following are the key advantages:
- No commission on currency accounts and transfers on the free tariff
- No additional fees for funding and currency exchange, making it convenient for those actively using different currencies
- Virtual cards supporting contactless payments via NFC are available on any tariff
- Registration and card issuance are faster, with less stringent requirements compared to other European banks
- Advanced security settings, including the ability to disable certain functions and location tracking
- The app is available in multiple languages
Revolut offers a range of banking services, including accounts in British pounds and euros, debit cards, currency exchange, stock trading, cryptocurrency exchange, and peer-to-peer payments. The Revolut mobile app supports cash withdrawals at ATMs in 120 currencies and transfers in 29 currencies directly from the app. Additional fees, ranging from 0.5% to 2%, are charged on weekend payments to protect Revolut from exchange rate fluctuations.
Revolut provides access to cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, Ethereum, Litecoin, Bitcoin Cash, Cardano, and XRP, allowing users to exchange them for 25 fiat currencies. A commission of 1.49% is applied for buying or selling cryptocurrencies. Cryptocurrency cannot be deposited or spent; it can only be converted back to fiat within the Revolut platform. Additionally, Revolut collaborates with a commercial bank in New York, which prohibits the transfer of fiat money to or from cryptocurrency exchanges.
Revolut offers stock trading with access to a range of US stocks and fractional buying/selling of stocks. Stocks purchased within the app cannot be transferred to another broker but must be sold or converted back to cash, which can then be withdrawn.
Criticism of Revolut
Automatic Account Locking
Revolut, like traditional financial institutions, uses algorithms to detect money laundering, fraud, and other criminal activities. However, Revolut’s algorithms are reported to trigger automatic account suspensions. The system is programmed to temporarily block an account and queue it until a compliance agent reviews the case. In 2020, there were reports of Revolut accounts being mistakenly suspended for several weeks or months due to a lack of an adequate number of compliance agents to review automatic suspensions promptly. Clients with suspended accounts were unable to contact Revolut’s regular support chat and received automated responses from a chatbot instead.
According to Finews.com, nearly 500 customer complaints about blocked accounts and lack of response from Revolut’s support were posted on public internet forums in 2020.
Revolut has faced criticism for its employment practices, including:
- Requiring employees to work for free as part of a trial task during the hiring process.
- Pressuring employees to work overtime to meet goals.
- High turnover rates, with over 80% of former employees working for less than a year.
In 2019, CEO Nikolay Storonsky informed employees that those with a “significantly below expectations” performance rating would be terminated without discussion. In 2020, Revolut attempted to avoid layoffs by asking employees to voluntarily exchange part of their salary for double the equivalent in Revolut stock options.
In 2023, it was reported that Revolut is working to make its corporate culture less toxic and more “humane” by establishing a department with psychologists and behavioral science specialists. This initiative is reportedly related to Revolut’s desire to obtain a banking license in the UK, although the company denies this.
Revolut’s Employment Practices
In March 2019, Wired published an exposé on Revolut’s hiring practices and work culture, revealing instances of unpaid work, high turnover, and directives for employees to work weekends to meet performance targets.
In June 2020, Wired released another expose detailing the dismissal of Revolut employees during the COVID-19 pandemic. Employees, particularly in Krakow, were given a choice: termination for unsatisfactory performance or a mutual agreement for voluntary departure to reduce the announced number of layoffs—62 in total. Current and former employees claimed they were coerced into agreeing to termination, even though the company lacked legal grounds for dismissal. In Porto, employees were reportedly pressured to accept a salary sacrifice scheme to retain their jobs.
Revolut Company History
Revolut was founded on July 1, 2015, by Nikolay Storonsky and Vlad Yatsenko. Initially based at Level39, a financial technology incubator in the Canary Wharf area of London, the company started its operations.
In 2017, the bank began offering cryptocurrency services, including cryptocurrency trading. On April 26, 2018, Revolut raised $250 million in a Series C funding round, valuing the company at $1.7 billion, earning it the “unicorn” status.
In December 2018, Revolut obtained a Challenger bank license from the European Central Bank, with the assistance of the Bank of Lithuania, allowing it to accept deposits and offer consumer loans but not provide investment services. At the same time, the Bank of Lithuania issued an electronic money institution license.
In March 2019, Revolut merged with Dax, and later that year, the company’s CFO, Peter O’Higgins, resigned amid accusations of regulatory compliance violations, which Revolut denied. In July 2019, Revolut launched commission-free stock trading on the New York Stock Exchange and NASDAQ, initially for Metal plan customers, later expanding it to all users.
In August 2019, the company announced the hiring of several employees with experience in the traditional banking sector. This included Wolfgang Bardorf, former CEO at Goldman Sachs, and global head of liquidity models and methodologies at Deutsche Bank; Philip Doyle, former head of financial crimes at ClearBank and fraud prevention manager at Visa; and Stefan Ville, former senior vice president of finance at N26 and corporate finance manager at Credit Suisse.
In October 2019, Revolut announced a global deal with Visa, leading to its expansion into 24 new markets and the hiring of an additional 3,500 employees. In February 2020, Revolut completed a funding round, increasing its valuation to £4.2 billion, making it the most valuable fintech startup in the UK.
In March 2020, Revolut was launched in the United States, followed by the introduction of its financial app in Japan in August. In November 2020, Revolut became profitable. In January 2021, the company applied for a banking license in the UK, and in March 2021, it applied for a banking charter in the United States through applications to the FDIC and the California Department of Financial Protection and Innovation.
In July 2021, Revolut raised $800 million from investors, including SoftBank Group and Tiger Global Management, at a valuation of $33 billion, becoming the most valuable fintech startup in the UK. In January 2022, Revolut started operating as a bank (instead of an electronic money institution) in 10 European countries: Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Spain, and Sweden.
As of March 2022, Revolut had 18 million customers worldwide, processing 150 million transactions per month. In September 2022, the company confirmed that personal data of 50,000 customers out of 20 million was exposed due to a cyber attack. In the same month, the UK Financial Conduct Authority added Revolut to the list of companies authorized to offer cryptocurrency products and services, as the company had been offering cryptocurrency trading since 2017 but was not regulated.
In November 2022, Revolut reached 25 million customers. In January 2023, Revolut announced that it would transfer 2 million of its Irish customers to a new Irish branch, shifting their accounts from Lithuanian IBANs to Irish IBANs in an attempt to compete with other incumbent banks after the exit of RBS and KBC Bank from Ireland. Revolut accounts began allowing cryptocurrency holders to make staking with proof-of-stake in the UK and the European Economic Area in 2023.
Revolut Company History by Years
Entry into the Singapore Market
On October 23, 2019, Revolut officially entered the market in Singapore, where the British fintech company had previously operated in test mode. During the experimental phase, the startup attracted 30,000 people who can now open a Revolut account from their phones, get a card, and manage money through the app.
Singaporean Revolut users can exchange 14 different currencies in the app, including Australian, American, and Singaporean dollars. Another 14 currencies are planned to be added, including Indian rupees and Malaysian ringgits.
Earlier, Revolut chose Singapore as the center for developing its business in the Asia-Pacific region. By October 2019, 20 people work in the company’s local office. The number of staff is expected to triple in a few months.
Revolut’s entry into the Singapore market was called its international expansion “a breakthrough for cross-border payments.”
Revolut, in collaboration with the Mastercard payment system, plans to issue debit cards in the United States by the end of 2019. As part of the cooperation, Mastercard will issue about 50% of existing and future Revolut cards, which will be intended for the European market (where the company has 7 million customers).
The British mobile bank intends to expand its cooperation with the Visa payment company and enter 24 new markets in 2020, including the Ukrainian market.
Threefold Increase in Annual Losses
In 2019, Revolut concluded the year with revenue totaling £162.7 million (approximately $212.2 million as of August 12, 2020), surpassing the sales of the previous year by 180%, which amounted to £52.8 million.
The digital bank’s net losses in 2019 amounted to £106.5 million ($139.6 million), tripling compared to 2018 when the startup incurred losses of £32.9 million. The significant increase in losses at Revolut was attributed to expenses related to expanding into foreign markets and launching new products. In 2019, the company introduced a commission-free stock trading service to compete with online brokers, as well as its app in the U.S., Singapore, and Australia. Additionally, Revolut increased personnel expenses, with the staff size growing from 633 to 2,261 people over the year.
Founder Nikolay Storonsky expressed satisfaction with the company’s achievements, stating that despite significant expenses, the startup’s momentum did not slow down. According to CNBC, Revolut surpassed its competitors, TransferWise and Monzo, in terms of the number of users. The company reported that its total user base tripled to 10 million by the end of 2019 from 3.5 million the previous year. The number of daily active users increased by 231%, and the number of paying customers rose by 139%. By August 2020, Revolut’s audience exceeded 13 million customers. Revolut claimed that, despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the business’s development dynamics remained unaffected.
Employee Strike Due to Bonus Conflict
In December 2020, a former employee of the British digital bank Revolut, co-founded by Nikolay Storonsky, filed a lawsuit against the company, accusing it of unlawfully pressuring her to resign. The company promised to pay monthly bonuses to employees with foreign language skills for assisting in translating documents and serving customers from different countries. However, Revolut regularly failed to fulfill this promise, leading some employees to strike and refuse to translate foreign documents required for financial compliance. Consequently, several customer accounts were frozen, pending verification completion.
Revolut explained that bonuses were only intended for employees proficient in the most in-demand languages, excluding rare ones like Greek. The temporary delay with frozen accounts, according to the company, resulted from rapid customer growth, Brexit planning, and the introduction of new hiring and training measures. However, it was revealed that in 2019, the digital bank sought compliance specialists with “impeccable” proficiency in at least 11 languages, including Greek. Some employees confirmed internal difficulties at Revolut were linked to the inability to translate documents.
The filed lawsuit was initially scheduled for consideration in a Krakow court at the beginning of the year but was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Theft of User Funds in Robinhood and Transfer to Revolut
In mid-October 2020, fintech company Robinhood experienced a hack involving 2,000 customer accounts, and the users’ funds were transferred to accounts in the digital bank Revolut. Customers accused Robinhood of a slow response to the situation, partly due to the lack of an emergency helpline and quick contact options. Robinhood developers assured that the issue was not with the service but with the vulnerability of users’ email. It was later revealed that the problem did not lie with Revolut but was connected to Robinhood’s own security lapses.
Entry into the Japanese Market
In early September 2020, the digital bank Revolut entered the Japanese market. The service became available to all interested parties in the country after testing involving 10,000 local users. Revolut offers three tariffs to the Japanese: Standard, Premium, and Metal, differing in the included services and service costs (¥0, ¥980, and ¥1800 per month, respectively).
As of September 9, 2020, Revolut does not allow Japanese customers to buy cryptocurrency, trade securities, use insurance services, or create children’s accounts (unlike European customers). The company stated that in the future, cryptocurrency purchases and securities trading would become available worldwide, without specifying a timeline.
Upon creating a Revolut account in Japan, customers receive an electronic wallet and a Visa debit card. Users can create a virtual card, link it to Apple Pay, Google Pay, or other systems. Through the app, Japanese users can freeze and unfreeze the card, send money transfers, including international transfers, to other Revolut users or bank accounts, convert currency, send money in other currencies, create vaults, and set up recurring payments.
Revolut’s Expansion and Financial Developments
Entry into the Japanese Market
Revolut entered the Japanese market following the country’s government’s intensified efforts to modernize the financial sector using digital technologies, including the planned revision of the outdated interbank transfer system. Unlike the Chinese, who have embraced mobile fintech applications, the Japanese still heavily rely on cash and ATMs, as noted by Nikkei.
$80 Million Investment and $5.5 Billion Valuation
In late July 2020, Revolut announced securing $80 million in investments, resulting in a valuation of $5.5 billion for the digital bank created by Nikolay Storonsky. The investment came from the American fund TSG Consumer Partners. Storonsky mentioned that Revolut wasn’t actively seeking investments, but TSG made an interesting proposal to collaborate. The funds raised will be allocated for developing new features for the U.S. service and credit products in Europe. Revolut also plans to use part of the money for a subscription management tool, allowing users to view and cancel subscriptions within the app and receive notifications when free trial periods expire. According to Financial Times, these new investments will help Revolut maintain its position despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic and the sharp decline in revenue. The number of card transactions with Revolut dropped by 45% due to the suspension of international tourism. The advantage of Revolut lies in currency conversions and cross-border money transfers.
Storonsky stated that the sharp decline in card transactions was partially offset by increased revenue from other services, including cryptocurrency trading. Despite this setback, the startup still aims to become profitable by the end of 2020. Revolut has faced accusations of poor customer service and alleged regulatory violations due to its rapid growth, as highlighted in a publication by FT. However, the startup rejects this criticism and has brought in several financial industry veterans, including Chairman Martin Gilbert, to enhance its reputation.
Ban on Withdrawing Cryptocurrencies in Cash
In June 2020, Revolut made the decision to discontinue a significant feature – the ability to withdraw cryptocurrencies in cash. While clients retain ownership rights to cryptocurrencies, they are now unable to transfer them to non-Revolut users. Cryptocurrency spending from cards was also suspended. Previously, the service supported Bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash, XRP, Ethereum, and Litecoin.
Entry into the U.S. Market
In late March 2020, Revolut entered the U.S. market, launching its app in 50 states. The American Metropolitan Commercial Bank partnered with the company, providing its financial infrastructure for the platform’s deployment. Revolut’s offices in the U.S. are located in New York and San Francisco, and the fintech platform is accessible nationwide on iOS and Android. While the functionality available to American Revolut users is currently limited compared to European users, expansion options are anticipated, including the ability to purchase cryptocurrencies and invest in the stock market. American users can already receive their salary two days in advance by sharing Revolut’s banking details with their employer. Other benefits include low fees for currency conversions, expense notifications, and budgeting assistance.
$500 Million Investment and $4.6 Billion Business Valuation
On February 14, 2020, Revolut closed a funding round, securing approximately $500 million in investments and achieving a valuation of $4.6 billion, nearly triple the company’s value in 2018. The primary investor in this financing deal was the Technology Crossover Ventures fund. Another contributor was the Bond Capital fund, founded by venture investor Mary Meeker. Existing investor Ribbit Capital also participated in the round. The funds were raised through the sale of new shares, coupled with a new credit line of $1 billion. Revolut, although operating at a loss, expressed optimism about turning profitable quickly, as stated by Chief Operating Officer Richard Davies in February 2020.
According to Forbes sources, Revolut founder Nikolay Storonsky holds a 30% stake in the company, making him a new billionaire with an estimated net worth of $1.65 billion.
Revolut: The Most Valuable British Fintech Startup
In late February 2020, the digital bank Revolut became the most valuable British fintech startup, with a valuation of $5.5 billion following an investment round. This surpassed the previous record held by Monzo, whose market value in 2019 was £2 billion. CB Insights, specializing in venture financing market research, also considered Revolut the most valuable European fintech startup alongside Klarna.
The $500 million raised by Revolut in February 2020 marked the largest investment in the European fintech market. The British authorities welcomed this investment as a vote of confidence in the financial sector amid Brexit-related concerns. Including this round, Revolut had raised a total of $836 million. The funds were intended for the development of new banking products and the expansion of banking operations in Europe.
As of February 25, 2020, Revolut boasted 10 million customers worldwide, 23 offices, and 2,000 employees, with half of them based in Krakow, Poland. Despite reports of high staff turnover linked to unpaid work and overly ambitious tasks, a Revolut representative stated that the company’s culture was changing as rapidly as its business, with a staff turnover of less than 3%.
Financial Performance in 2020
By the end of 2020, Revolut reported revenue of £222.1 million, a one-third increase from the previous year. However, the company’s losses nearly doubled, reaching £201 million. The growing losses were attributed to business development expenses and expanding the workforce. Administrative expenses for the startup in 2020 rose to £266 million ($369 million), up from £125 million ($173 million) in 2019. Employee-related costs accounted for £170 million ($236 million), almost triple the expenditure from the previous year. Revolut also increased spending on risk management and compliance.
Adjusted for the fair value increase of cryptocurrency assets, Revolut’s revenue from cryptocurrency operations reached $54 million. By the end of 2020, the retail customer base grew by 45% year-on-year, reaching 14.5 million, while the number of business customers doubled to 500,000. Revolut aimed to obtain a banking license in the UK by 2022 and had also submitted a similar application in the United States. The company planned to expand its business further and possibly enter Latin American markets.
Despite its global presence, the UK remained Revolut’s largest market, accounting for over 88% of unadjusted revenue in 2020. Other European markets contributed 10.2% to revenue, while markets in Japan, Australia, and the US were relatively insignificant. Bloomberg reported Revolut’s plans to raise new investments with a business valuation of $20 billion.
Developments in 2021
Banking License in Lithuania
In mid-December 2021, the European Central Bank replaced the specialized bank license of Revolut Technologies UAB with a banking license. Following the renewal and expansion of the license, Revolut Bank UAB, founded by Nikolay Storonsky, aimed to broaden its services, including accepting deposits, issuing loans, card payments, direct debit, credit transfers, cash withdrawals, money transfers, and account information services. Revolut Payments UAB, an electronic money institution licensed in Lithuania, had been providing these services up to December 2021. The Bank of Lithuania granted permission for the specialized bank’s reorganization through a merger with Revolut Bank UAB in early October 2021.
Storonsky co-founded Revolut in 2015, initially offering a currency card linked to a smartphone app. Over time, the company expanded its services, from various cryptocurrencies and stock trading to insurance and vacation bookings. With this scaling, Revolut acquired more than 16 million customers in 35 countries by early 2016.
As of the end of the third quarter of 2021, Revolut Bank UAB had attracted deposits from residents amounting to €395 million and provided residents with loans totaling nearly €12 million. Since 2019, Revolut Payments UAB had processed payment operations worth €100 billion, generating almost €170 million in operational income and holding over 50% of Lithuania’s electronic money and payment institution market.
Revolut’s Acquisition of Nobly POS and Recent Developments
On November 25, 2021, Revolut announced the acquisition of Nobly POS to venture into fintech services for the restaurant and hotel sectors. The details of the transaction were not disclosed.
Funding Round and Valuation
In mid-July 2021, Revolut raised $800 million in a funding round led by SoftBank and Tiger Global. This round brought Revolut’s valuation to $33 billion, a sixfold increase from $5.5 billion in 2020. The funding made Revolut the second-largest fintech unicorn in Europe, after Klarna, and the largest fintech startup in the UK, surpassing Checkout.com.
New investments came from SoftBank’s Vision Fund 2 and the American hedge fund Tiger Global, collectively owning less than 5% of Revolut’s shares. According to Revolut’s CFO Mikko Salovaara, the funds would be used for marketing, product development, and international expansion, particularly focusing on accelerating growth in the US and India. While an IPO in 2021 was considered unlikely, Salovaara did not rule out the possibility but suggested it was improbable.
Revolut’s founder, Nikolay Storonsky, emphasized the company’s expansion strategy by offering new services, including those related to cryptocurrency, stock trading, and business accounts. By July 2021, Revolut had approximately 15 million private customers and 500,000 companies, processing over 150 million transactions per month.
Profitability Achieved and Financial Performance in 2021
For the fiscal year ending December 31, 2021, Revolut reported its first net profit of £26.3 million ($31.3 million as of March 9, 2023). The revenue for 2021 tripled to approximately £636 million (around $769 million), compared to £220 million in 2020. This rapid growth helped the company, founded by Nik Storonsky, achieve profitability.
During the Series E funding round in 2021, Revolut raised $800 million, and its customer base increased by 5 million during the year. The number of users with paid subscriptions rose by 75%, and the size of the weekly audience of active users increased by 50%.
In 2022, Revolut continued its growth, with revenue increasing by approximately 30%, exceeding £850 million ($1.01 billion). The company’s workforce doubled in 2022, reaching over 6,000 employees.
Security Incident in 2022
In mid-September 2022, Revolut experienced a cybersecurity attack, where an unauthorized third party gained access to the personal information of tens of thousands of customers. The incident was described as highly targeted, and according to Revolut, the unauthorized access affected only 0.16% of its customers for a brief period.
Based on information provided by the State Data Protection Inspectorate in Lithuania, where Revolut holds a banking license, 50,150 customers were affected. In the European Economic Area, a total of 20,687 customers were potentially impacted, with only 379 Lithuanian citizens affected. The compromised data included email addresses, full names, mailing addresses, phone numbers, limited payment card data, and account information.
Revolut assured customers that compromised data types varied for different individuals, and no access was gained to card details, PINs, or passwords. The company responded promptly to the intrusion, significantly limiting the risk to customers by isolating the attack. As a precaution, Revolut formed a dedicated team to monitor customer accounts to ensure both funds and data remained secure. Customers were advised to be cautious of any messages requesting personal information, as Revolut would not call clients regarding the incident or ask for confidential information.
Expansion in the European Economic Area (EEA) and Crypto Services Approval
In August 2022, Revolut obtained approval from the Cyprus Securities and Exchange Commission (CYSEC) to offer crypto services in the European Economic Area (EEA), which includes 27 European Union countries, as well as Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway.
Revolut became the first organization to receive approval from the Cypriot regulator as a crypto asset service provider. Additionally, the company obtained permission to operate with cryptocurrency assets from the Central Bank of Spain and the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS).
Prior to this, Revolut had acquired a banking license from the EU in Lithuania, enabling it to accept deposits and offer retail and business lending. Before obtaining this license, opening an account with Revolut was easier than in traditional banks, as users didn’t need to go through extensive KYC processes, as noted by TechCrunch.
Lithuania proved to be an ideal choice for Revolut due to simplified procedures for obtaining licenses related to electronic money operations and payment services. Startups could acquire an electronic money or payment license in just three months (four, including the preparation stage), which was two to three times faster than in other EU jurisdictions. Additionally, the government enacted laws regulating peer-to-peer lending platforms and crowdfunding, with capital requirements for banking licenses five times lower than in other EU countries.
With the obtained license, Revolut planned to introduce new features in the UK, France, Germany, and Poland. Users in these countries would be able to get a real payment account and a prepaid debit card without upfront fees in the coming months.
After transferring funds to its infrastructure, Revolut’s assets would be insured up to €100,000 under the European Deposit Insurance System, encouraging more users to use Revolut for salary deposits and large sums of money.
Challenges with UK Banking License and Closure of Moscow Office
In May 2022, Revolut faced difficulties in obtaining a banking license in the UK, one of its key markets, as reported by Bloomberg. Founder Storonsky expected the license to be issued earlier in the year, but as of the report, it had not happened yet. Authorities were scrutinizing Revolut’s cryptocurrency trading service and its founder’s connections with Russia. As a result, the company decided to close its Moscow office.
Theft of $20 Million Due to System Flaw
In early July 2023, it was revealed that Revolut had experienced a theft of over $20 million. According to Financial Times, the issue was related to vulnerabilities in Revolut’s payment system. Differences between European and American payment systems led the platform to mistakenly reimburse transfers, using its own funds.
The problem first surfaced at the end of 2021, and organized cybercrime groups exploited the vulnerability in early 2022. They compelled individuals to make expensive purchases, which were later canceled. The funds could then be withdrawn through ATMs. Revolut’s systems failed to detect widespread fraud, and the issue was only discovered when a US partner bank notified the fintech company of lower-than-expected account balances. The fraud affected Revolut’s corporate funds rather than customer accounts. The company addressed the issue by spring 2022.
While Revolut returned some of the approximately $23 million stolen funds, the net loss amounted to around $20 million, nearly two-thirds of the startup’s profit for 2021. The UK Financial Conduct Authority ordered an independent review of Revolut’s policies for preventing and detecting financial crimes. Revolut declined to comment on the situation.
Bank of England to Reject Revolut’s Banking License Application
In May 2023, it was reported that the Bank of England planned to reject Nikolay Storonsky’s application for a banking license for Revolut. Audit firms stated they could not verify the “completeness and accuracy” of the revenues of three Revolut business units, amounting to £477 million, representing 75% of the company’s total revenues.
Hiring Psychologists for Team Relations Improvement
Due to criticism of its corporate culture, Revolut, led by Nikolay Storonsky, announced plans to hire psychologists in January 2023. The move aimed to create a more “human approach” to the company’s corporate culture. The new behavioral science team was tasked with encouraging employees to treat each other more “humanely,” be collaborative, and show respect “at all times.” The company also planned to revise the description of its corporate culture on its website, shifting from emphasizing a “very high bar” to a more inclusive approach. Former Revolut employees had previously reported a culture of “intense competition” that made people “usually pleasant” but “very combative” towards each other.
Appointment of Francesca Carlesi as CEO for UK Operations amid Banking License Pursuit
Revolut announced the appointment of Francesca Carlesi, former executive at Deutsche Bank and Barclays with 15 years of experience in financial services, as its new CEO for the United Kingdom. Carlesi will be responsible for overseeing Revolut’s operations in the UK, and once the company obtains a banking license, she will manage the banking division. Revolut has been actively seeking a banking license in the UK since filing its application in 2021.
European fintech company Revolut revealed on Thursday that it has appointed former Barclays executive Francesca Carlesi as its new CEO for the UK. Carlesi, who also worked at Deutsche Bank and has 15 years of experience in financial services, was most recently the CEO of digital mortgage lender Molo Finance. A Revolut representative told CNBC that this move is not related to the application for a banking license. Carlesi will be responsible for the company’s operations in the UK, and once it obtains a banking license, she will oversee Revolut’s banking division. The appointment comes as Revolut strengthens its local presence while awaiting the long-sought-after UK banking license. The company declined to comment on the status of its application. The banking license will allow Revolut, listed among the top 200 global fintech firms by CNBC and Statista, to offer credit products, including mortgages, personal loans, and credit cards. It will also enable Revolut to attract a more loyal user base benefiting from deposit insurance up to £85,000.
This could potentially become a lucrative business direction for the firm, allowing it to generate interest income at a time when interest rates are at multi-year highs. Since filing the application in 2021, Revolut has been in talks with the Bank of England and the Financial Conduct Authority regarding obtaining a license in the UK. Thus far, it has faced resistance due to issues related to internal working culture, accounting problems, and a complex share structure. Revolut submitted its financial reports late earlier this year, prompting criticism regarding its readiness to become a fully licensed bank. In response, Revolut states that it is working on improving its internal controls.
The Revolut project is successful and attractive, especially in the context of generally conservative European banks. It has been able to offer users a multi-currency card with favorable conditions and other financial services with in-app management. However, comfortable use is only possible in countries where Revolut operates officially.
The Revolut card is suitable for those who frequently make currency payments, such as travelers, those working with foreign companies, or those moving to countries where the service is available.
Revolut is an international banking service offering multi-currency cards and additional services for them. Its offering includes the following features:
- The card allows fee-free money transfers in 30 currencies and payments in 150 currencies.
- The standard tariff is serviced for free, providing access to all essential services.
- The card is managed in the mobile app and has both a physical and virtual version with contactless payment support.
- The app’s functionality includes payments, transfers, and currency exchange, advanced settings, and access to additional services.
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