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Around the world, several digital banks have achieved impressive scale. But most of these fintech companies have been focused just on their home market. It is difficult to scale a global digital bank because regulations and compliance requirements differ so much between countries. But we have seen some traditional banks achieve scale in multiple countries so there is no reason why we shouldn’t see the same in fintech.
My next guest on the Fintech One-on-One podcast is Siddhartha “Sid” Jajodia, the Chief Banking Officer for Revolut and the CEO of Revolut US. There is no other fintech company that is as focused on becoming a global fintech leader as Revolut. They already have 35 million customers in more than 30 countries around the world and they continue to open operations in new countries multiple times a year.
In this podcast you will learn:
What attracted Sid to the role at Revolut.
How he describes Revolut today.
What he means when he says it is a financial super app.
The number of customers Revolut has globally.
How Revolut is differentiated from other digital banking offerings in the US.
The typical Revolut customer in the U.S. and globally.
How they are getting the word out.
The challenges of creating an international digital bank.
What Revolut 10 is and why it is important.
Their approach to user experience.
What CEO and founder Nik Storonsky is like to work with.
What it is going to take for Revolut to reach scale in the US.
Revolut’s vision for the future of financial services.
Read a transcript of our conversation below.
Peter Renton 00:01
Welcome to the Fintech One-on-One podcast. This is Peter Renton, Chairman and co-founder of Fintech Nexus. I’ve been doing this show since 2013, which makes this the longest running one on one interview show in all of fintech. Thank you for joining me on this journey. If you liked this podcast, you should check out our sister shows The Fintech Blueprint with Lex Sokolin and Fintech Coffee Break with Isabelle Castro, or listen to everything we produce, by subscribing to the Fintech Nexus podcast channel.
Peter Renton 00:39
Before we get started, I want to remind you that Fintech Nexus is now a digital media company. We have sold our events business and are 100% focused on being the leading digital media company for fintech. What does this mean for you? You can now engage with one of the largest fintech communities, over 200,000 people through a variety of digital products, webinars, in-depth white papers, podcasts, email blasts, advertising, and much more. We can create a custom program designed just for you. If you want to reach a senior fintech audience, then please contact sales at fintech nexus.com today.
Peter Renton 01:21
Today on the show, I’m delighted to welcome Sid Jajodia. He is the Chief Banking Officer of Revolut and the CEO of Revolut US. And Revolut is one of the biggest names in fintech globally. They began in London and are very strong in Europe, and have been in the US for for a bit over a couple of years. And wanted to get Sid on the show because I think what Revolut is doing is just is so interesting. We wanted to bring sort of this global perspective to fintech. And we talk about obviously, what Revolut does, the products and that sort of thing. But we also talk about what’s behind some of the moves they’ve made and why they really attacking fintech this way. Very different to pretty much any other any other fintech company, globally. And we talked about the new Revolut 10 product that was launched, what it is, why it’s important. Sid provides his perspective on working with Nik Storonsky, one of the biggest names in fintech globally. And he also talks about what it’s going to take to really scale the US in the similar way that it’s done in other parts of the world. It was a fascinating discussion. Hope you enjoy the show.
Peter Renton 02:39
Welcome to the podcast, Sid.
Sid Jajodia 02:41
Thank you, Peter. Thanks for the opportunity.
Peter Renton 02:43
My pleasure. So we go back quite a long way, about a decade when you first got a job at LendingClub. So I’ve been following your career for some time. But why don’t you give the listeners some of the highlights of what you’ve done to date.
Sid Jajodia 02:57
Thank you, Peter. Yes, we do go back a long way. I think the short version of this is I’ve been in banking, financial services now over 20 years. I really grew up at Cap One where I spent over a decade across a number of roles through consumer and small business credit and that spanned product development, risk management, growing the business in various ways. At the end of that I decided, you know, lots of exciting things happening in P2P lending and fintech so moved to the Bay Area, joined LendingClub, that’s where I met you. I launched Business Lending at LendingClub, and then held other roles on the risk side, as well as, my last role there was as Chief Investment Officer, where I worked with all of the asset managers, banks, investors, who were buying loans on the marketplace, and worked with them to ensure they were successful. But internally, I was the voice of the investor, helping ensure risk return trade offs were being managed appropriately for the people whose capital we were deploying. After what was then 16/17 years in the US, we as a family had an objective to spend time and immerse ourselves in other cultures. My kids had just graduated from elementary school, we thought it’d be a great time to take them to Europe. So we moved to the Netherlands, I joined a startup that was focused on emerging markets. So it is a payments startup, online payment gateway. And I joined them to launch credit as an additional vertical as well as digital banking in India. We were also interestingly, an investor in other startups. So over the three years there we were able to deploy close to half a billion dollars in other startups, strategic investments, M&A activity, and then I joined Revolut, about two and a half years ago, to lead banking for them globally. And then more recently, as a part of my move back to the States, took on the day to day responsibilities of running Revolut in the US.
Peter Renton 04:52
So was the plan always to come back to the US? Was that sort of the part of your family’s plan? You’ve spent a bit of time in Europe and the UK, was that always part of the plan?
Sid Jajodia 05:03
Exactly right, Peter. I think the plan was spend maybe three years in Europe, give the kids a chance to immerse themselves in other cultures, travel a bit, and then come back and have them finish out high school. So I have twin boys. Now they’re both juniors. So we made it, maybe a year, we stayed a year longer than we had initially planned to in Europe. But it’s great. Like we’re back. We love it. Back in the Bay Area.
Peter Renton 05:26
You moved to Revolut, obviously, big name. We’re going to talk about some of the details of Revolut in a second, but want to first ask, what attracted you to the role at at Revolut?
Sid Jajodia 05:36
The simplest answer is I love the product. So in the role that I was at, AU, in the Netherlands, I was traveling the globe a lot, We had, as I said, we were focused on emerging markets. We had a business, you know, the business itself spanned 30+ countries. So I would travel a fair bit. And one of the things I learned very easily, very early on is, is my credit cards were not the ideal way to be spending while I was traveling. And so I started experimenting with all these other apps that were that were available in Europe. And Revolut was one of them. I just loved the product, it saved me a lot of money, the ease of use of navigating the app was great. So I was already a fan. And there was another feature of it, which was a junior feature, which is my kids could have a sub accounts within my account and have their own Junior card. So they were big users of the product. So we as a family had already started using the product, liked the product. So when Nik reached out, it was a no brainer. To me, I was intrigued, I wanted to learn. Revolut was global across not just UK and mainland Europe, but have the ambition to be in so many other markets, which was a great opportunity for me to not only bring my experience and have an impact, but also to learn new things that are happening in these markets, what the competitors are doing our ability to scale, multiple products, multiple geographies in a short period of time. That to me was a fascinating thing that I wanted to be in the middle of so a lot of different things lined up well.
Peter Renton 07:05
Sure. So then, how do you describe Revolut today, overall? And what about the the operation inside the US which you’re the CEO of. Is there is there any sort of nuanced difference to what’s happening in the US than in other markets?
Sid Jajodia 07:20
So Revolut is, you know, we call ourselves a global financial Super App, what that means is a, we’re global. We’re now across 38+ markets and growing. Super App is, the idea is, customers can use us for many of their different needs. It’s not a single product fintech. It’s a multi vertical, well diversified company. And examples of that, you know, we’re across consumer and SME, and on the consumer side, we provide various things depending on the licenses in different geographies. But to name a few, multi currency wallets, you can hold up to 30 currencies, through the Revolut app, remittances, cross border payments, additionally, domestic payments. So now in 29, markets in Europe, we are a full fledged bank, so you can have, you know, insured deposit account. We recently launched credit. In other markets where we’re not a bank yet. We have either through partnerships with banks, or through digital eMoney licenses have the ability to provide depository services, domestic payments. We’ve, over the last couple of years, started to scale our wealth and trading business. So in many markets, you can trade equities. Through the app in Singapore, you can trade commodities as well. Crypto trading on the app. In the US, we’ve launched a robo advisor, we’ve just started testing it in the last few months, which we then plan to take globally. And then on the SME side, again, a bunch of different features, payments, cross border payments, the ability to give employees unlimited number of virtual cards, so you can distribute for different expenses. You can have different cards assigned, distributed to different employees with caps on them. We’ve integrated in certain markets like the UK, we’ve integrated with the payroll system of the government. So you can do payroll, a small business can do payroll for the employees through the Revolut app, but then it’s directly connected to HMRC. So you know, the taxation and the reporting is managed directly. So again, like lots of different financial products. But then on top of that, in Europe, we also have a product called Stays. So we’re building lifestyle features into the app. A consumer can book their hotels through the app, and depending on what subscription plan you have, you get 5%, 10% cashback on your hotel expenditures through Revolut. So again, our objective is to have consumers come in use the product for all of their day to day financial needs. Credit is something that’s still relatively young, but we’re looking to scale that. We’re now in six markets and growing with credit. We plan to bring credit to the US, and I’ll get into the US in a second. But we also want them to use it for other lifestyle features.
Peter Renton 10:06
Can you give us a sense then, what’s the size of the company? Maybe the number of customers globally, and in the US, maybe the the number of employees globally and in the US. What are we talking about here?
Sid Jajodia 10:17
And this is a testament to the quality of the product and the value of giving back to the customers, we now have 35 million plus customers globally, on Revolut. In the US, we started just a couple of years ago. So we’re now getting close to a million customers in the US. We have over 7000 employees globally, our entire employee base is very diverse. We have over 100 nationalities represented in the employee base. The product is live in 38+ markets. So mainland Europe, UK, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Singapore, US, we just went live in Brazil, and continue to add, we hope to go live in the first half of next year in India, and Mexico soon after.
Peter Renton 11:00
Alright. Interesting. Interesting. So let’s talk about the US market. Because it’s a competitive market. It’s a fairly mature market when it comes to digital banking offerings. The Revolut brand, while I think it’s very well known in Europe and the UK when I visit, I see Revolut, everywhere, not so much here in the US. So obviously, you’re trying to change that. How are you trying to differentiate yourself from the other, the other offerings that are out there?
Sid Jajodia 11:28
You’re right. I mean, Revolut is relatively new in the US, and we have our work cut out. It’s a competitive market, lots of great fintechs focus on different verticals. For us at the end of the day, it comes down to the customer, what are the customer pain points? How can we deliver a better experience. We are a one stop shop, so that’s one place where we’re clearly differentiated from other places where you can do so many different things in one app, you don’t need to fragment your financial life as much. So we look to continue to add on that. In the US today, we have you know, as I said, just under a million customers. The products we have live in the US, the multicurrency wallet, remittances, cross border payments, all of these are no brainers for anybody who is an expat, an immigrant, you know, professional working in the US, anybody who has either liabilities or sources of income in other currencies, this is absolutely a no brainer. But we’re not limited to focusing on just immigrants and expats. We are building products that are for mainstream US. So we have domestic payments, you get, you know, a cashback debit card. We’re just in the early stages of launching credit, we’ve just piloted it. Next year, we’ll look to scale it. We’re launching a high yield savings account, we already have a savings account, which yields four and a quarter percent, where we’re looking to launch a high yield savings account in Q1. We have a license from FINRA. So you know, customers can trade equities in the app. But we also, as I said earlier, we launched a robo advisor product. So again, a broad suite of products. We’re continuing to improve the products themselves with the end customer in mind. And you know, the customers will tell us if as long as we’re delivering value, we’re delivering ease of use to them, we will have permission to grow here.
Peter Renton 13:13
Who is the typical customer in the US? And is it similar across the globe, or is this a little different?
Sid Jajodia 13:20
Globally, we’ve seen customers of all ages and, you know, and walks of life, be our customers. In the US, you know, because we early in our journey here, what we’ve seen is the early adopters tend to be coastal. So urban. California, Texas, New York, South Florida, some of the coastal areas, urban centers, diverse populations. While we skew a little bit younger, we’re not limited to a younger audience, we see, you know, a significant number of our customers, you know, like me over 40, who use the product as they travel as they, you know, do business across borders. We’ve also seen some great adoption in recent quarters on the business side. We’re growing our business customer base, our SME customer base. In the US, our revenues in that space specifically just tripled in the last year alone. So strong adoption there. And as we launch credit next year, we expect that to grow.
Peter Renton 14:15
Okay, so then how are you getting the word out to your target audience here in the US?
Sid Jajodia 14:20
Yeah, globally, what started was by word of mouth. So our product, you know, just worked so well in the US, given the multicurrency use cases in Europe were just more, it just went viral. So we didn’t spend a lot on sort of above the line marketing so to say. It was a lot of referral marketing and word of mouth, and the same thing is how we launched in the US. We haven’t done any large brand advertising campaigns, the product speaks for itself. We incent existing customers to bring in friends, families, anybody else who they think would benefit from using the Revolut app. We’ve done some performance marketing. But we’re very disciplined, we want to make sure that our marketing yields a payback within, you know, a couple of years. So we’re very disciplined in terms of growing the engagement on the product, growing the, I guess ARPU, average revenue per customer. And then based on that, reinvesting some of that in marketing to scale it. So it’s been primarily focused on performance marketing and referral marketing too.
Peter Renton 15:27
Okay, so you’re the CEO of Revolut US. And are you still the Chief Banking Officer, it says so in your in your LinkedIn profile, that you’re still the Chief Banking Officer of Revolut, and is that a global position? And following up from that, is the intention then to get a banking license in every market, including the US?
Sid Jajodia 15:50
So yes, I double hat Revolut. So I joined Revolut, two and a half years ago as a Chief Banking Officer, which was to manage all of Revolut markets. So I manage all the markets across Europe, you know Asia Pacific, as well as the Americas , as we continue to scale. And as a part of that role, I took on the direct day to day responsibilities of managing the US more recently, so I double hat in that sense. The second part of your question around our ambition to be a bank, our ambition is to be a bank in as many markets as it makes sense. So markets where we have a large presence where we have a significant customer base, and where the regulatory regime supports us getting a license, we will look to become a bank. You know, there are there are some markets where they have a limited number of like some markets where they said, we’ll only give out five digital banking licenses, and they’ve all been given out, you know, we realize we’re not going to get there soon, until at least the regulator’s change their mind about opening it up and making it more competitive places where we have significant customers using our product adopting, you know, Revolut, we will look to eventually become a bank.
Peter Renton 16:59
And does that include, I mean the US obviously, is a challenging market right now, when I was talking with a lot of people in the in the regulatory space at a recent event. And it’s hard right now for any fintech to get approved for anything. But so right now, it’s not, I mean they were talking about it’s impossible right now, to get a banking license for a fintech, if you want to buy a bank. It’s just the things are not aligned, but is the eventual plan to get a license, a banking license here in the US?
Sid Jajodia 17:26
Eventual ambition absolutely, Peter is to be a bank in the US. I think that’s when you have the most control over your operations, your decisions. But that’s not immediate for us. So it’s not on our immediate roadmap, what we’re focused on right now is working with our existing bank partners, and scaling customer adoption and achieving product market fit and all the verticals that we choose to focus on. So that’s the, that’s my focus and my team’s focus right now, but at some point in time down the road, we will actually look to be a bank. I think the regulatory environment, both some of the bank failures in the last year and some of the challenges with crypto fintechs in the recent years has toughened up. You know, regulation is important. What we’re looking for is, you know, the longer journey, which is customers are moving more and more towards mobile banking, fewer and fewer customers walk into a branch, I don’t know when I walked into a branch last. And so if you look at that direction of travel, you know, US banks have gone from 14,000 banks 15 years ago, now to 4,000 banks, the number of branches continues to shrink. So the direction of travel is eventually there will be a handful of digital banks, digital only banks that will succeed in the US, and our objective is to be one of those banks.
Peter Renton 18:41
Okay, so I want to talk about the new product that you launched, which was sort of the catalyst for this interview, that is Revolut 10. What is it? And why should we pay attention to it?
Sid Jajodia 18:52
Revolut 10 is a complete overhaul of our app. So it’s our latest version of our app. It’s a complete overhaul. And the catalyst for it was, you know, I talked about the journey where Revolut you know, now it’s eight years old, we started as a travel card in the UK, and then over time have expanded into so many other products, customer segments. What that then needed was an overhaul of the app in a way where it was clear for a customer, both to discover the product set the you know, the different products, find them, try them out, but also manage the app in a way where they could customize the widgets, have the things that they use more front and center, but then also customize it for their own sort of aesthetic. We have a bunch of different ways a customer can change the color of the background, organize the widgets, organize the information in a way that works for them. So the end objective was to allow a customer to organize their relationship with Revolut in a way that was most intuitive for the customer. And then with the ambition of us becoming the primary account. So I mentioned we’re a bank now in 29 markets. As we launch more and more features, we’re looking to not just be another account for our customers, but be the primary operating account for our customers. And so for that it allows, you know, the flexibility that Revolut 10 is designed with allows the customer to order all of that and make it easy and simple for them to manage all of their primary activities.
Peter Renton 20:22
Gotcha. Well, I gotta tell you, I downloaded the app the other day, I’ve downloaded a lot of apps over the years. And you know, it’s funny, because I was on the Revolut waiting list for a long time, I just never got around to downloading the app. So I downloaded it, and installed it and moved money into it. And I it was the easiest experience I’ve ever had in working with a fintech app. And like connecting it with Apple Pay, I just got my Bank Debit cards inside Apple Pay and just moving the money in, obviously, you’ve really, really focused hard on user experience. What’s your approach there? And is it drastically different than what it was a year or two ago?
Sid Jajodia 20:59
You know, it’s top down. Nik, as a founder has been always 100% focused on the customer. You know, I sit in product reviews with him many times a week, and the questions you ask are all around the customer. So why would the customer do this? Why? This feels too hard. This feels like there’s too much friction here. Go back and work on this particular feature, make it easier? And all these questions around sort of understanding how the customer is using the app, understanding the pain points, and how do we improve it? So you know, top down the company is very, very customer experience focused. And you know, the Revolut 10 is the latest, I guess, in some ways, culmination of the design efforts to make it much easier. As we’ve expanded the set of things that a customer can use, you know, the natural result of that was a bit of clutter. And so this was a decluttering and a simplification of the CX for the customer, while enhancing many of the features themselves.
Peter Renton 22:01
Right, right. So I want to ask you about Nik, Nik Storonsky, he’s the, you know, the CEO and founder of Revolut. He’s also very, very well known in fintech circles. I mean, he, he spoke at one of our events many, many years ago. And he struck me as someone who was in a hurry to be successful, and he just had a lot of energy about him. But what’s he like to work with on a day to day basis?
Sid Jajodia 22:28
I enjoy working with him. But you know, going back, you asked me why I joined Revolut. One of the reasons I joined Revolut was Nik had laid out such a compelling, but also audacious ambition for the company. The idea that you can build a truly global, digital-only bank across so many markets, with so many products in such a short period of time. To me, it was just audacious. I had worked at a lot of companies, I hadn’t seen that degree of sort of ambition, but the compelling vision. And then if you look at it, eight years into the journey, what Nik has achieved, like what Revolut has achieved, but it’s driven by Nik’s sort of desire to that, so that customer focus is amazing, right? So it’s a testament to, to what he’s done. You know, I spent a year, my first year at Revolut, I spent in London, so I work closely with him there. And then even while I’m, while I’m here in the US, while I don’t see him day to day, I work closely with the whole team there. I’ve enjoyed my time working with Nik. It’s been a great relationship, he’s very clear on what the direction of the company is, very clear on what he expects of people. He’s very, very focused on the impact we can have as a company, and it’s all been around building. So it’s great energy to feed off.
Peter Renton 23:43
Like in the UK, Revolut’s very, very well established. One of the big three, sort of early fintechs that have made it big. Here, you said you’ve only been here a couple of years. So you’ve got a little bit of time to go. There are some names that you’re competing against that are very well established, and at a large scale. What’s it going to take for the US business to get to sort of a similar position that you have in the UK and Europe?
Sid Jajodia 24:11
Yeah, I mean, it’s a journey. So at the end of the day, we have a lot of different products that are in the app. For us to succeed in the US, it goes back to the customer, what are we what are we giving to the customer in terms of value? What are we giving in terms of customers back in terms of time by simplifying things for them? If we make it easier for a customer to do something, the customer will customers will use us, right? So the challenge here is obviously there are some other fintechs that have first mover advantage on some of the features. For example P2P payments in Europe, Revolut is a verb, I’m going to Revolut to you the money, right? Here you have other fintechs who fit that sort of bucket. So we have to continue to sort of innovate, we have to continue to strive to, to earn the customers trust and their business and we’re confident, given Revolut’s DNA around product innovation and customer focus, we’ll succeed here.
Peter Renton 25:06
Right. Okay. So then I’d love to kind of end with what your vision is, you have sort of touched on a little bit, but maybe we could dive a little deeper into what is Revolut’s vision for the future of financial services overall? Obviously, it’s going to be digitall, but I’d love to kind of get your your sense of that.
Sid Jajodia 25:26
I think, you know, we call ourselves a company that wants to make financial services borderless. Borderless, both in terms of geographical national boundaries, where for anybody who’s in a country, we make your lives easier using the product domestically. But for those who also go cross borders, you know, I personally have lived across continents, I’ve lived in four countries, each time you move to another country, you have to start your financial life from scratch. The banks there don’t recognize you, you have to sort of shut these accounts, open new accounts. We want to make it as seamless as possible for someone to live their financial life across borders. So so that’s sort of one clear ambition and future. The second is, we want to make it easy for it to be a one stop shop. A lot of the move away from the large banks in the past was frustration with, you know how the bank engages with you. The data is siloed. Just because you use one product doesn’t necessarily mean you can use the other products. We want to make the technology work for the end customer in a way that it makes the multi product relationship, seamless. And if you see how we’ve operated so far, we have multiple subscription tiers, plans, it’s all towards that where you can do multiple things, and you get more value out of it. And you see the benefit, not just in terms of resource, but in terms of price that accrue to you. So for us, it’s about use all the latest innovations in technology to give the end customer more control over their own lives. I know it sounds like a lot of mission statement type things, but every day that’s what’s driving us. It’s what drives us to to improve the feature set as we do.
Peter Renton 27:14
Well, yeah, it’s a great thing for consumers to have. Companies like Revolut really breaking new ground with a lot of a lot of what you guys have done, and your existence has really broken new ground. Anyway, that’s all we have time for today, Sid, it’s great to catch up with you again. Thanks so much for coming on the show.
Sid Jajodia 27:29
Thanks, Peter. Thanks so much for the opportunity.
Peter Renton 27:33
Thank you for listening all the way to the end of this episode, I really appreciate it. This is our last recording of 2023. I would like to take this opportunity then to thank you for coming on this fintech journey with me. I appreciate you listening and also wanted to wish you all a happy holiday season, however you celebrate it. Hope you have an enjoyable and relaxing time. And we will see you back here in 2024.
Peter Renton is the chairman and co-founder of Fintech Nexus, the world’s largest digital media company focused on fintech. Peter has been writing about fintech since 2010 and he is the author and creator of the Fintech One-on-One Podcast, the first and longest-running fintech interview series.