Interview: Nikolay Storonsky says Revolut is growing faster than competitors, because it thinks globally

Mobile first bank, Revolut, launched in July 2015 with a punchy mission: to turn the financial banking sector on its head. It’s co-founder Nikolay Stornsky is widely quoted as saying he wants Revolut to become the “Uber of banking”. And by all accounts, he is well on his way.  Since launch, the company has signed up over 2.25 million customers across Europe (one million in the UK), processed over 125 million transactions and has a total transaction volume of over $18.5 billion.

Funders like these numbers. The company has raised a total of $336m from some of the most notable investors including DST Global, Index Ventures, Balderton Capital and Ribbit Capital. It also has a market valuation of £1 billion + putting it in the enviable position of being a unicorn in the fintech capital of the world – London.

EYE caught up with Nikolay for the low-down on the Revolut story.

Revolut is growing fast, how is that growth possible?
Revolut employs a freemium model, with a free basic account where customers can opt to pay for add-on services. We also offer business accounts. Revolut broke even for the first time in December and whilst it is encouraging to see that our business model is working, becoming a profitable business is not our priority right now and we are completely focused on expanding Revolut to as many countries around the world as possible.

“Many of the largest institutions have too much internal complexity to compete with fast and nimble start-ups. To adapt, they must embrace, acquire and evolve.”

We’ve created a great product that people want to use. We’ve also worked super-hard to build a whole culture, built a team, while making sure we approach and execute everything in the right way. We are growing four or five times faster than our competitors because we are a global banking alternative whereas our competitors are mostly local.

We really believe in our financial marketplace and want to be present in as many countries as possible with a full offering, including business lending, retail lending, trading, investments, and wealth management.

What’s wrong with traditional banking practices? Why do they find it so difficult to respond to both consumers needs and challenger/mobile first banks entering the market?
Many of the traditional banks are still lumbering under slow, outdated systems that are struggling to compete with innovative, agile and disruptive banking. Challenger banks see an opportunity to create a new way of banking that is compatible with the digital age and future generations.

The challenger bank market is crowded.  How will it shake out in the next five years or so?
We will see an increasing number of key partnerships, mergers and acquisitions between challengers and incumbents. There will be a “land grab” for the most promising technology platforms, and start-ups. Many of the largest institutions have too much internal complexity to compete with fast and nimble start-ups. To adapt, they must embrace, acquire and evolve.

How is the consumer changing beyond wanting to bank in apps on mobile?  Will AI and assistants become a commercial banking reality for them?
Over the past few years, the use of advanced AI in corporate banking has been accelerating. Effective application of AI will enable fintech employees to focus less on administration and more on adding value. Over the next decade, AI will dramatically change the nature of our industry’s work and reshape our competitive differentiators.

Is consumer trust an issue? What barriers, real or perceived, affect Revolut?
We believe that digital-only banks are beginning to be recognised by the majority of the public, and driving significant numbers of customers to change banks as they build awareness and trust. Revolut has gained over 2.25 million customers by offering powerfully attractive alternatives and improvements on how people handle their finances. Digital banking challengers are increasingly convincing consumers they can be trusted by delivering on their promises for security, reliability and privacy.

Which tech person do you most admire?
Jeff Bezos – The visionary of Amazon, who with the help of the internet has created a single store that sells nearly everything. He has ensured that Amazon has continued to innovate and try new ideas, defining Amazon as a technology company rather than a retailer. They have never settled and have continued to innovate and invent, with impressive examples including Amazon Marketplace and Amazon Web Services.