Revolut-ionary Leaders: Navigating Global Aspirations
In its seven years of existence, Revolut has swiftly made its way from a multi-currency payments startup in the UK to a digital bank scaleup in Europe, and now marching towards becoming a global financial super-app. Unravelling the story so far, we've looked at their product evolution (the What) and their expansion strategy through licencing (the How) across different geographies (the Where). Now it's time to explore the Who ㅡ the people leading the meteoric rise of the FinTech poster child.
Faces Behind The Revolution: Leaders From Around The Globe
To build a global financial super-app, mapping out a cohesive international leadership team and tapping into the right top management talent pool is one of the key steps in achieving the vision. Like many disruptive innovation stories, it all began with one man's frustration over the traditional banking system. Nikolay Storonsky – the man behind it all – bid on the market opportunity presented by the high costs and frustrating customer experiences involved in forex transactions. Along with Vladyslav Yatsenko, Revolut was built to provide forex at market rate for ex-pats and international travellers. What started as a company premised at Level39 FinTech incubator at London’s Canary Wharf is now a decacorn with over 25 million customers in 36 countries.
As the company expanded from its home grounds in the UK and Europe to overseas markets like Australia, the United States, Japan, India, Mexico, Singapore and more, the need for local leadership was imminent. Looking at the diverse leaders in Exhibit 1, it's no secret that Revolut has gone after some of the best banking veterans with contextual local expertise to lead regional operations. The current set of regional CEOs command an average experience of 20 years prior to joining Revolut – pretty rare for a young-blooded FinTech.
Double-clicking on the A-team, there are some interesting insights to be found. While it's a given that all the regional CEOs come from a solid financial services background, each of them has several areas of expertise as per the markets they are spearheading.
In Australia, Matt Baxby played a key role in securing the Australian Credit Licence from the Australian Securities & Investments Commission (ASIC). This is partly thanks to his established corporate finance and law background.
Similarly, in Europe, Joe Heneghan, who started out as CEO of Revolut Payments Ireland, led the rapid growth of Revolut's Irish business, doubling its customer base to 1.5 million. In June 2021, he was named the company's CEO for its Europe division and is now responsible for leading Revolut's licensed banks and e-money institutions in Lithuania and overseeing its further expansion in the EEA.
Joining the company first as the global Chief Banking Officer in 2021 and later in 2022, also donning the hat for US CEO, Sid Jajodia brings to the table some strong banking & finance competence. The company has witnessed considerable growth in the States, with over 500K active users. Sid's expertise in global banking makes him the right weapon of choice to tackle the dynamic American dream.
When Revolut expanded to Japan in 2020, Yoko Christina Makiguchi joined the company with a previous experience of 32 years across banking, investing, and e-commerce. Her ambition to spearhead the FinTech's super-app agenda in Japan has been a work in progress with some regulatory roadblocks recently.
Following Revolut's in-principle approval from MAS to offer Digital Payment Tokens (DPT) in Singapore, Raymond Ng was appointed as the country CEO to further boost the customer adoption it witnessed since its launch. His previous experience with payments technology will prove beneficial in the company's next growth phase in the country.
In Latin America, Revolut aims to provide multiple products ranging from cross-border payments and remittances to credit, insurance, and investments. By appointing Juan Miguel Guerra (Mexico) & Glauber Mota (Brazil), Revolut has welcomed experts in the above fields, who pay equal attention to local preferences and align themselves with the company's regional goals.
In India, Revolut acquired foreign exchange firm Arvog Forex as part of its plan "to launch bespoke financial products, many of which would be new to the country, reflecting the unique needs of Indian consumers." Paroma Chatterjee’s extensive experience in diverse areas will be paramount in making Revolut a household name in India.
What also must be noted is the role of previous regional CEOs — such as Ron Oliveira in the US, Virgilijus Mirkės in Europe, and James Shanahan and Deepak Khanna in Singapore — who passed on the torch to their successors after contributing considerable efforts in establishing operations, partnerships, and licencing processes in their respective markets.
Getting **It Done, A Lesson At A Time
Revolut's leadership story isn't all glory and no gloom. With its own set of drawbacks ranging from churn in the C-suite, regulatory scrutiny, and friction in obtaining licences, the list of challenges may be as long (if not longer) as the list of achievements. Nevertheless, setbacks are a leader's learning mechanism, and the company has only gotten bigger and strives to be better driven by ambitious leadership. Channelling the mantra in every step of its climb — "Never settle, get it done, think deeper, and stronger together," the FinTech mogul has mindfully built an arsenal to conquer its super-app summit.