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UK fintech firm Revolut sets up in UAE

UAE Revolut Revolut
UK-based Revolut offers banking and trading services through an app
  • Company hiring in Dubai
  • Presence could be ‘wake up call’
  • Valued at $33bn in 2021

The British fintech firm Revolut is expanding to the UAE in what experts believe is the start of a wave of similar UK companies setting up in the region.

The digital platform, which offers banking and trading services through an app, is recruiting for legal and strategy roles in Dubai.

The company has hired Jonathan Moore, a former strategy manager at Careem, the Dubai-based super-app, as its head of UAE for strategy and operations.

A spokesperson from Revolut confirmed to AGBI that the bank was hiring for roles in the UAE, but declined to share details of the company’s expansion plans.

Prashant Gulati, an investor in the US-based alternative banking institution Truly Financial, described Revolut’s entry as putting “the cat among the pigeons”.

“It’s going to be a wake-up call for staid and lazy incumbents, who haven’t got a worthwhile digital banking strategy or are being slow or not very innovative,” he said.

Revolut, founded in 2015, rapidly gained in popularity across Europe by providing fee-free currency exchange and a linked payment card. 

It has broadened its services to include savings accounts, stock and crypto trading and peer-to-peer payments.

The company achieved a valuation of $33 billion in 2021, and says it has more than 35 million customers and some 500,000 businesses using its products.

Its ambition is to secure a full UK banking licence, which would enable it to directly accept deposits and expand lending activities, instead of outsourcing these functions to other UK-licensed banks.

Revolut confirmed that its UK bank licence application is ongoing and that it has no plans to shift its global base to the UAE.

The consulting firm Kantar’s 2023 list of the UK’s most valuable brands ranked Revolut as the third highest ranked financial services company. It was ranked in 15th place, behind HSBC and Barclays, which are ranked second and 11th respectively.

The UK and the UAE signed an agreement earlier this month to strengthen ties on financial services that its backers hope will provide a boost to fintech, which is among the UK’s strongest startup sectors. 

Its 20 fintech unicorns, those with a value of $1 billion or more, make up around half of the UK total.

Pritam Basu, founder and CEO of Boseman, a UK-headquartered credit, investment and payment fintech, said the agreement could open up opportunities for UK companies to explore new markets, an appealing prospect given the “very saturated” landscape of fintech products in the UK.

The veteran banker Suvo Sarkar, founder of the digital bank Liv, said UK fintechs offer products the UAE market “is really crying out for”.

Sarkar said that although challengers were unlikely to worry legacy banks, fintechs were gradually gaining market share.