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UK banking 'unicorn' Revolut expands to Australia

Oscar Williams-Grut
Senior City Correspondent, Yahoo Finance UK
Expansion: Australia is Revolut's first international market outside of Europe. Photo: Revolut

Revolut, the highly valued British banking startup, has announced plans to launch in Australia.

Revolut said on Thursday it would begin a “beta” roll-out in Australia to 20,000 people who have signed up to its waiting list in the country. It marks Revolut’s first international launch outside Europe.

The startup will establish headquarters in Melbourne and plans to invest millions into the market over the next few years.

“Our mission has always been to build a global financial platform, and launching our public beta in Australia marks the first step in our journey,” Nik Storonsky, cofounder and chief executive of Revolut, said in a statement.

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Storonsky, a former Credit Suisse currency trader, set up Revolut in 2015 as a low-cost international money card linked to an app. It has since expanded into everything from wealth management to cryptocurrencies.

Revolut has over 5m users across Europe and its rapid growth has made it one of the hottest tech companies on the continent. Revolut was valued at $1.7bn (£1.32bn) in a funding round last year and has attracted over $300m of investment from top venture capital firms such as Index Ventures and Silicon Valley’s Ribbit Capital.

“Over the last four years, we’ve built a product that has helped to improve the financial wellbeing of more than 5 million people in the UK and Europe, and we’re incredibly excited to begin doing the same in Australia,” Storonsky said.

Will Mahon-Heap, Revolut’s APAC expansion manager, said Revolut would initially only launch its foreign exchange and money management tools in Australia, before expanding into areas like business accounts and cryptocurrencies in the future.

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The Australian expansion comes after a rocky start to the year for Revolut. The BBC reported earlier this year that the UK’s banking watchdog investigated Revolut in 2016 after a whistleblower raised concerns about the company’s culture and compliance. Wired magazine also published a feature highlighting issues with Revolut’s culture.

Separately, the Telegraph reported on apparent issues with sanctions screening controls at Revolut. At the time, the FCA said it was seeking more information from the startup, which strongly disputed the Telegraph’s reporting.

Revolut has also become embroiled in a political row in Lithuania, where it has a banking license.

The negative headlines and investigations have pushed the company into fire-fighting mode. In April, Yahoo Finance UK revealed that Revolut had hired a specialist crisis communications firm to advise it on PR. Revolt was also recruiting for an in-house defamation lawyer, a highly unusual role at a startup.

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Oscar Williams-Grut covers banking, fintech, and finance for Yahoo Finance UK. Follow him on Twitter at @OscarWGrut.

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