It was only three years ago that Revolut was a “scrappy little startup” according to Founder and CEO Nikolay Storonsky, and now it is one of the fastest growing tech companies in the world with 3 million account holders and revenues of £12.8 million, five times higher than a mere two years ago in 2016. We spoke to Nikolay about Revolut, his views on what’s happening in digital finance, the new wave of innovation and the future.
Fintech Disruptors: What do see as the key challenges and opportunities ahead for Revolut in the short term?
Nikolay Storonsky: Our main challenge at Revolut is hiring – both finding the best talent and doing it quickly enough at the speed of our expansion. However, startups are also seen as increasingly more desirable employers. We see that legacy banks are facing real issues in attracting the best talent: with their multiple levels of decision-makers and ridiculous hierarchical structures. Another great opportunity is international expansion, as we aim to become a truly global. New markets come with new challenges, but around the world traditional banks are still lumbering under outdated systems that are struggling to compete with innovative, agile and disruptive fintechs such as Revolut – so we see this as a huge opportunity.
Fintech Disruptors: What does 2019 look like for you?
Nikolay Storonsky: International expansion will be our main focus in 2019 – as we plan to launch in the US, Canada, Singapore, Hong Kong, Japan, Australia, New Zealand in the next few months. By doing this, we’ll be getting closer to our ultimate vision of becoming a first truly global bank – which means that our users will be able to open a local current account on their phone and in any country in less than 2 minutes. We’ll also be introducing new products to Revolut, such as our commission-free trading platform and a Robo-investor.
Fintech Disruptors: What do you feel are Revolut’s biggest success of late and what will be the dominating themes in 2019?
Nikolay Storonsky: We launch every feature based on the needs and feedback we receive from our users, as well as trends we see in the market. Being customer-centric is crucial, and that’s one of the main differences between Revolut and the legacy banks, which typically apply a “one size fits all” offer to everyone. The launch of our cryptocurrency offer, which is still one of the fastest ways to get exposure to cryptocurrencies today, was very well received. Our Metal plan has proved to be extremely popular, while on the business side, the launch of recent integrations with Slack, Xero and FreeAgent have been received well by our business customers.
Artificial intelligence and machine learning will continue growing in importance and adoption. At Revolut, we’re already using our own AI and ML algorithms in online fraud detection and compliance, which helps us avoid human errors and scale faster. Further personalisation of services with the help of technology will allow people to have even their most niche needs cover, and what’s more – they will be able to choose all those setting themselves. Hopefully we’ll see new ideas for the ways to utilise the blockchain technology as well.
Coupled with human imagination and creativity, AI can be a very powerful and helpful instrument. One of the most important tasks for anyone who’s in the fintech sector will be to utilise AI in differentiating offers to clients, and also employ it to facilitate exponential growth.
Fintech Disruptors: Talk to us about the deployment of data and analytics across finance? What progress is being made?
Nikolay Storonsky: Most of the progress in deployment of data and analytics is made by the new fintech players in the market – traditional banks typically take too long to adapt. We’re seeing more and more legacy banks begin to copy the most successful fintech practices, or even acquiring fintechs to use their technology – but there’s a big difference between being “digitized”, and “fully digital”, so the fact that some banks copy some ideas from fintechs doesn’t mean that they grasp the very essence of how tech companies work. At Revolut, we’re heavily investing in data science and engineering in order to apply data science across the business in order to automate, accelerate and increase the quality of decisions.
Fintech Disruptors: What is the role of fintech in enabling merchants on their digital journey and growing e-commerce?
Nikolay Storonsky: When building our acquiring tool for merchants, our goal is simple: creating and using a Revolut account will be around 10x cheaper for the merchant, as they will be enabled to withdraw money directly from the Revolut accounts of their clients.
Fintech Disruptors: What in your view is or will be the Impact of protectionism on financial services, and potentially, the opportunities for cross border providers?
Nikolay Storonsky: One of the biggest differences between fintech challenger banks and legacy banks is that we are essentially a tech company, which provides financial services, which means that by building new technologies ourselves, we are able to grow and scale much faster. Technology knows no borders, and with it, we can also provide truly global financial services, where users aren’t constrained by typical banking requirements and can enjoy a fully digital experience wherever they are.
Fintech Disruptors: How are traditional banks grappling with deep digitization?
Nikolay Storonsky: You can definitely see how the banks’ attitude towards new fintech players has changed. Nobody took us seriously at first. Now, however, you see how the legacy banks are trying to copy what we’re doing, but because they’re so big and cumbersome, minor changes in their apps doesn’t change the essence of how they operate. We are signing up over 8000 new customers every day, which is more than any retail bank in the world, so it’s evident that people are tired of the traditional banks.
Fintech Disruptors: How will the trend of “absorption” – financial services being more closely integrated into the fabric of specific industries and sectors – play out?
Nikolay Storonsky: At the speed at which technology is evolving today, there is hardly any way to predict the long-term future – any integration of different elements may have endless possible results and then snowball into something different still. Whoever is first to create an ecosystem that will unite the retail, business clients and merchants, and create the easiest, cheapest and most convenient way to handle your finances, will be the winner here.