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Revolut CEO reveals 'super-app' plans to offer '100 per cent digital' mortgages

Revolut CEO Nik Storonsky wants one app for all services. Photograph: Luke MacGregor/Bloomberg

Adrian WecklerIndependent.ie

What’s next for Revolut? Can it ever be your only bank? Might it soon offer mortgages? And now that it has introduced messaging services, is it trying to become Europe’s first ‘super app’?

Revolut’s Irish user base is huge. With over 2m users, as well as 135 people employed here, Ireland is the company’s second biggest market after the UK.

Its range of services has mushroomed in recent times, too. As well as money transfers, the app now offers loans, insurance, credit cards, crypto-trading and cash-back shopping. The latest feature introduced this week is messaging. And the UK company’s co-founder and CEO, Nik Storonsky, told the Irish Independent that it has another offering under consideration – mortgages.

“We will definitely do mortgages for consumers,” he says. “Because when I look at all the mortgage processes, it can take one to two months. At best, it’s seven days. It’s all quite ‘legacy’.”

So what might a Revolut mortgage look like?

“It could be one of two models, or a combination,” he says, in a podcast interview with the Irish Independent’s Big Tech Show podcast. “The first one is a mortgage financed by us as a bank. Or it could be like a mortgage introduction. But ultimately what we want to build is a frictionless experience that is 100pc digital, so that within the app you apply for the mortgage, select the house that you want to buy and then be emailed at the same time. Everything would be instant and automated.”

Mr Storonsky declined to put any timeline on a new mortgage offering for Revolut users.

But he says that it has been a poignant week for him, personally. While Revolut was announcing new features, it emerged that Mr Storonsky revoked his Russian citizenship as a response to the ongoing invasion of Ukraine. Why did he choose to do that?

“Well, I’m against the war,” he says.

Did that hurt, emotionally?

“A little bit. But I’ve been living in the UK for the last 16 years and my business is in Europe.”

There are other family ties to the fallout from the invasion, which he has described as “abhorrent”. Mr Storonsky’s father was admonished and put on a sanction list by Ukrainian authorities for his role as a director with the Russian energy firm Gazprom.

One of the reasons why we’re so popular in Ireland is because the banks are not good

However, speaking at this year’s Web Summit in Lisbon, he appears more focused on ways to grow the Revolut app than dwelling on the war.

He’s not shy about pointing out the shortcomings of Irish banking apps, some of which still can’t properly display tablet versions of their apps.

“One of the reasons why we’re so popular in Ireland is because the banks are not good there,” he says.

“It’s a massive problem. We got used to thinking about the bank as some kind of a building where you go to get something you want, but the reality is that banking is a software business. Everything should be automated and be provided instantly, efficiently and autonomously.”

In Ireland, Revolut operates using its Lithuanian banking licence. It tried to get an Irish licence but was left waiting by the Central Bank for 30 months, at which point it decided just to go with the Lithuanian licence. The move changed Revolut’s plans to make its Irish office a more central European regulatory base. While others inside the company privately describe the drawn-out waiting period from the Central Bank as disappointing, Mr Storonsky doesn’t want to be drawn into a blame game. He says that it worked out fine for Revolut.

“It was more like a cost benefit analysis for Irish customers,” he says.

“When we applied in Ireland, it was a pre-Brexit thing,“ he says. “And because it wasn’t ready in time for Brexit we used our Lithuanian license. So then, by the time the Irish license was ready, we had already rolled out in every single country. At that point we just thought, okay, what is beneficial for Irish customers? Obviously, we could have used our Irish eMoney license in Ireland for Irish customers, but then they wouldn’t have [the same] customer protection. So it made sense [to go with the Lithuanian licence].”

Did that episode affect the viability of the company’s Irish office, which employs 135 people?

“No,” he says. “We transferred the majority of people in Ireland to the Lithuanian bank. If you look at our [Europe] CEO for the bank [Joe Heneghan], he used to be CEO of Ireland.”

And what plans now, if any, are there for the Irish office?

“We’re always hiring people,” he says. “But in terms of licenses, we’re set in Europe at the moment.

While Revolut is waiting on a pending licence application in the UK, reportedly described as close to completion, the Lithuanian licence is the one the company currently leans on for its European banking. Does Mr Storonsky think that’s enough to run a pan-European financial institution with 20m users and evermore ambitious plans?

“For now,” he says. “We’ve branched out in every single country in Europe. That means we’re also regulated as a bank in every single country by a local regulator. So it’s enough for now.”

Now that Revolut has a messaging service, talk of becoming a ‘super app’, like the type of do-all services seen in Asia, is starting to emerge. Mr Storonsky bats off the question, preferring to think of Revolut as a “financial super app”.

“A super-app is a very high level concept,” he says. “Ultimately, we want to have in one app all the financial services that people use, in a simple, intuitive and cost effective way. So if I want to trade, I can trade. If I want to buy or sell crypto, I can do it, or withdraw money, of do foreign exchange or borrow money. For me, it should be a tool where I can get everything I need at a good price.”

You can listen to the full interview with Revolut CEO Nik Storonsky on The Big Tech Show, available on all podcast platforms.


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