‘Money spoils children’: Revolut’s $7bn CEO on inheritance, growth plans, and more

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What do Nikolay Storonsky and Daniel Craig have in common? Brown hair? A smoldering default expression? Not only that – they share a vision towards heritage.

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“I guess money spoils our kids, doesn’t it?” The founder of Revolut says that when I ask him if he shares James Bond’s views on reducing family wealth. Craig made headlines for saying that he found the legacy “distasteful” and plans to spend or give away all his millions before kicking the bucket.

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Why am I asking Storonsky about this? Well, he’s a very rich man – at least on paper. According to people who track these things, the 37-year-old’s net worth is about $ 7 billion. He is the co-founder of Revolut, which was valued at $33 billion in a funding round in July. Storonsky still holds a large stake in the business.

“To be honest with you, I don’t really think about it,” he says.

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Still, Storonsky has to rank as one of the top wealth creators in UK history. He co-founded Revolut in 2015 as a forex card linked to a smartphone app. A former city merchant, he was annoyed at the high rates he spent abroad and felt he could do better.

From there, Revolut has expanded into everything from cryptocurrency and stock trading to insurance and even holiday bookings. The rapid expansion has won over 16 million customers in 35 countries. It’s also earned that heavily priced Revolut.

Storonsky, an avid windsurfer, took a much-needed summer vacation after sealing the latest deal. Now he is back, tense and invigorated. Revolut is working on expansion into India, which is a banking license in the US and UK, and seems to launch a new product every few weeks. The latest is PayDay, where Revolut advances their earned wages to the people. The company is working on other products such as Buy Now, Pay Later Loans, card-to-card money transfers, and payroll services.

It’s the banks, loan companies, remittance services, website builders and payroll companies that Revolut is trying to compete with. Oh and travel companies and advertising giants too – but there’s no room to go into all of that.

“I think I have more ideas now than I did six years ago,” Storonsky says. “Every year there are more and more ideas.”

Storonsky was born in Moscow in the mid-1980s, the son of a senior engineer at the state oil company Gazprom. He was a champion swimmer while a student at the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology and worked as a businessman at Lehman Brothers and Credit Suisse before setting up his own business.

Revolut is a product of his background: a combination of the controversial mathematician’s eye, high financial literacy, and a brutal competition.

“Being competitive and having ambition is good for people,” he says. “It drives them to do things. In any profession it is good for your personal growth.”

The company was once viewed as a close competitor to Monzo, its older and more paranoid digital banking rival. But fortunes changed during the pandemic. When income from card transactions declined due to the lockdown, Monzo was forced to lay off staff and raise money at a discount. Revolut, which long ago diversified into new business lines, saw its earnings increase thanks to its stock trading and cryptocurrency services.

Storonsky once said, “99.5 percent of my life is work-related,” and I’ve seen him blow through a half-hour conference presentation in just 15 minutes, feeling like he’s running back to the office. Is.

He expects the same from employees – sometimes asking for too much. A Wired article in 2019 highlighted the “human cost” of developing Revolut. This sent the company into a tailspin and forced it to fight against claims it had made on the back of unsustainable working practices.

Storonsky insists that those days are behind him, though I find the infamous “Get Shit Done” neon sign still hanging in the office. (The “sh” in shit is not lit.)

“Now that we have HR managers, we have a lot of HR managers,” he says with a smile. “These additions, call it, features implemented and processes in HR have helped us mature – but at our core we are still the same in terms of our culture.”

Revolut launched a very public campaign following a Wired article to “grow up”, a process that included the appointment of City of London veteran and Aberdeen Asset Management co-founder Martin Gilbert as chairman.

“Apart from experience, his main help is that he is a founder himself,” Storonsky says. “He really understands the problems that startups face. He doesn’t even panic, which is good.”

Revolut hopes to obtain its provisional banking license in the UK by the end of the year, which will allow it to push into lending products. Word from US regulators could come as early as next year. This will help lending to Revolut – the real money maker.

“We now have more customers in Europe than HSBC,” he says. “It’s a good achievement, isn’t it? But overall we still have a lot to do. Now we need to get HSBC’s revenue.

Rapid expansion and heavy valuations inevitably make an IPO talk. Storonsky stressed that the company is in no hurry. Perhaps unfortunately for London, the fair trader he has means he has no particular influence in the London market.

“Analysis needs to be done: is it the US, is it the UK, maybe Hong Kong? I don’t know,” he says. “Whenever we pull the trigger we will analyze and we will decide. Sources, we always use sources I believe in.”

Storonsky has a reputation as a difficult person to get to know. Interviewing him can sometimes be like bleeding stones but when I go to meet him he is in a good mood.

Her guarded nature resurfaces, however, when I send a follow-up email asking about Storonsky’s family setup. Does he have a wife? Children? He refuses to answer. this is the first.

Old interviews reveal that he actually has a wife and two children. If they really exist, at least now they know not to bank on that future trust fund.

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