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Revolut brings the fintech battle to Berlin with a new hub

Jill Petzinger
Jill Petzinger, Germany Correspondent, Yahoo Finance UK
BERLIN, GERMANY - JANUARY 11: In this photo illustration the Logo of british online bank Revolut is displayed on a smartphone on January 11, 2019 in Berlin, Germany. (Photo Illustration by Thomas Trutschel/Photothek via Getty Images)

British fintech startup Revolut is opening a new European tech centre in Berlin, the home turf of its online-banking rival N26.

The three-year-old unicorn, which offers banking and transfer services via a smartphone app, said today that it made logical sense to set up a tech hub in the German capital, and that access to Berlin’s tech talent pool was a big draw.

Chad West, global head of marketing at Revolut, told Yahoo Finance UK that as the second biggest startup ecosystem in Europe after the UK, and home of big tech companies like Rocket Internet and N26, Berlin was the logical choice.

The company, which has 1,200 staff globally will be hiring 80 more for the Berlin office — mainly software and data engineers.

“We are expanding into six new markets in the next few months... We’re also approaching the final stages of building a commission-free stock trading platform in Europe, and to do all these huge things we need a lot of engineers,” West said.

West said that centralising everyone into one engineering hub is ideal, but it’s not realistic as the company scales. “There are only so many engineers in London,” West said.

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“There’s a constant bidding war when it comes to big tech companies and fin tech so what we’ve really started to do over the past couple of years is expand our engineering hubs.”

The large number of Berlin-based people who asked Revolut if they could work remotely or split their time between London and Berlin supported the decision to set up shop in the center of the city.

Revolut will naturally be fishing in the same talent pool as Germany fintech unicorn N26, although West says they are “not looking to necessarily steal from a particular company.”

However, they will bring the fight to N26 as part of their mission to grow the business in Germany. Currently Revolut has about 250,000 customers in Germany, lagging France, Spain, and Italy. A team in the new office will target growth in the domestic market.

“I believe there’s plenty of room for multiple players,” West said. “I don’t believe in this logic that only one fintech can dominate and control.” Ultimately, more competition means increased consumer choice he added.

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Revolut in Germany would not be under the jurisdiction of BaFin, the German financial regulator, but still under the oversight of the Financial Conduct Authority in the UK.

In the event of a hard Brexit, West says that their European license, granted by the ECB, would become operational and they could transition their European customers over to that.