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Hot fintech Revolut seeks PR firm amid bad headlines

Oscar Williams-Grut
Senior City Correspondent, Yahoo Finance UK
Revolut CEO Nikolay Storonsky. Photo: Kimberly White/Getty Images for TechCrunch

Hot UK fintech startup Revolut is talking to public relations firms amid a string of bad press, according to sources.

Two sources in the PR industry and one in the fintech sector told Yahoo Finance UK that Revolut has recently held meetings with outside agencies. Press and public relations for the four-year-old startup has until now been handled internally.

A spokesperson for Revolut told Yahoo Finance UK: “We have been engaging with multiple strategic communications firms since late 2018 in order to assist us with our planned upcoming launches in new international markets.”

Revolut is one of Britain’s hottest startups. It was founded in 2015 by a former Credit Suisse currency trader and began as a prepaid card linked to an app that let people buy ultra-cheap currency. It has expanded into everything from insurance to cryptocurrencies.

The startup was valued at $1.7bn (£1.2bn) last year and has raised money from top venture capitalists in Europe and Silicon Valley. Revolut has 4m users globally and signs up thousands of new accounts each day.

The talks with PR firms come amid a string of negative coverage. The Telegraph recently reported on what it claimed were sanctions screening issues at the company. On the same day Wired published a report detailing the “toxic” internal culture at the startup. These followed headlines earlier in the year about falsified data used in Revolut’s adverts and scrutiny of its banking activities in Lithuania.

The reports have led to characterisations of Revolut as “under-fire” and “rattled”. City AM said that the startup had suffered a “torrid start to 2019.” UK marketing magazine The Drum described it as a “PR crisis.”

Revolut has pushed back against the claims. CEO Nikolay Storonsky said in a blog post that the Telegraph report was “misleading” and said: At no point during this time did we fail to meet our legal or regulatory requirements.” In another blog post responding to the Wired report, Storonsky said that while “we haven’t always gotten things right… we are not the same company that we were 12-18 months ago.”

However, the FCA has said it is seeking more information from Revolut about the incident detailed in the Telegraph report. Compliance experts also told Yahoo Finance UK that the report on Revolut’s culture would also likely draw scrutiny from the regulator. The Sunday Times yesterday quoted House of Commons Treasury Committee chair Nicky Morgan MP as saying her committee will “keep a close eye on” the FCA’s findings.

Revolut appeared to be mounting a PR push to counter the recent reports. Over the weekend it announced a string of recent executive hires and board appointments. City grandee Martin Gilbert, the co-CEO of fund giant Standard Life Aberdeen, is advising Storonsky, while former Silicon Valley Bank COO Bruce Wallace and former Deloitte partner Caroline Britton are both non-execs on the startup’s board.

While the appointees have been in place since last year, their involvement with the startup was not known until the weekend.

Storonsky also gave an interview to newspaper City AM, published on Monday. He said he was “disappointed” by recent “false and misleading” reports about Revolut’s compliance.

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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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