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21 Feb, 2023 16:53

UK fintech giant may have a Russia problem – The Guardian

Revolut faces regulatory hurdles reportedly due to co-founder’s Russian roots
UK fintech giant may have a Russia problem – The Guardian

British financial technology company Revolut has not been able to receive a banking license from the UK financial regulator for more than two years because its co-founder is of Russian origin, The Guardian newspaper reported on Monday, citing officials at the watchdog, bankers and current and former employees of the company.

The start-up’s co-founder Nikolay Storonsky emigrated to the UK, where he eventually secured British citizenship, back in 2004. However, his family connections are challenging for Western intelligence officials and UK law enforcement agencies. Storonsky's father holds a senior role in Russia’s state-owned energy giant Gazprom, and has been on the US sanctions list since 2014.

Among other reasons for the protraction the unnamed sources cited delayed filing of accounts, EU regulatory breaches, fines and an aggressive work environment that has allegedly forced several key employees to quit the company.

Revolut applied for a banking license to the British financial regulator back in 2021, and is still waiting for approval. Some of the company’s smaller rivals received a UK banking license in half the time.

The regulator has reportedly raised questions about the company’s corporate culture and staff turnover. At the end of 2022, its former employees told the Financial Times that the company had “fierce competition” that encourages staff to behave belligerently.

While Revolut used to claim that the company had a “high performance culture,” in January, the firm announced plans to hire psychologists and behavioral science experts.

Moreover, UK regulators are aware of problems that their counterparts uncovered in Lithuania, where Revolut secured its EU banking license in 2018. There, it has faced two parliamentary investigations over its Russian links and has been penalized for regulatory violations, data breaches and failing to file its financial accounts on time.

The company was separately fined €200,000 for failing to gather adequate information about its clients and their transactions, and another €70,000 by the Lithuanian central bank for failing to file audited financial accounts on time.

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