The 22 year-olds thriving in Revolut's tough culture
Revolut, Europe’s most valuable fintech, is a place that demands much of its employees. It is also one that gives much, especially to its younger staff. This youth focused approach has been there since its inception. One of its most notable alumni, Alan Chang, joined at the age of 21 and left a millionaire at the age 28.
If you're a new graduate looking to get ahead, Revolut still seems to be the place to do it. In an article at the weekend, the Financial Times reported that a number of twenty-somethings at the app-based bank have been promoted to “founder associates” by CEO Nik Storonsky. Their role is “to observe business lines and report directly back to him.” Revolut has reportedly been referring to these young people as “operating principals” for the past year.
Some of these operating principals have spent a few years in the industry, like Amantay Nurgaliyev who graduated in 2014 and left a job at Uber for Revolut in February. Similarly, another principal - Alena Rybalko, spent over two years working for Revolut before she left for industry rival Paysend. Rybalko returned to Revolut and was at the firm for another two years before becoming an operating principal last summer.
However, other operating principals reporting directly to Storonsky at Revolut have had far less experience. For example, Viktor Bondestam and Alessandro Giarré only graduated in 2019 and 2018 respectively. The most recent addition to the cadre, Eduardo Maric of the COO office, only graduated in 2020 before joining this October.
Storonsky’s advocation for the youth has caused some ripples among more senior Revolut staff who have suddenly found comparatively junior people in positions of power. Also at the weekend, The Times reported on one executive who quit before an FCA review last year left “in part because he couldn’t persuade Storonsky to change the culture” in a meaningful way. Given the youthful culture of FTX prior to its collapse, experience suddenly seems more important.
Revolut's cultural idiosyncrasies are well-documented and have seemingly caught the eye of regulators. An FCA review “raised alarms” of an “undesirable culture and operational issues” at the fintech according to the Financial Times, which quotes a former executive who describes the culture as “cut-throat.”
It's not all bad though. While the culture is driven by Storonksy, he's also fair and even-handed. The Times praises Revolut's CEO for being “very generous” for giving people equity and allowing a secondary sale of shares at every funding round. Former colleague, Nutmeg founder Nick Hungerford says Storonksly, “is incredibly focused and determined and makes no excuses for who he is.”
And yet Hungerford acknowledges that Storonksly can also be “really hard to stomach” for “a lot of people.” It's not that he's “a bad person,” or “toxic,” said the executive who quit. It's just that Revolut's CEO is an alleged “machine” with “no EQ,” and that this “leads to a high friction culture.”
Revolut responded to the Financial Times by stressing that its “high performance culture” is “diverse, supportive and encourages people to be the best." In an investor call last week, Storonsky he envisioned himself as a “coach” for his team of “elite athletes.”
Revolut isn't for everyone. Reviews from Blind on forum website Blind give the fintech an average score of 2.9 stars. There are significantly more 1 star reviews than 5 stars, and the lowest rated category within the company is its management. A review from a current employee this month describes it as “chaos” and warns of a “lack of psychological safety. Reviews on Glassdoor fare a little better with an average of 3.6 stars. Though only 66% would recommend working there, 74% approve of the CEO.
And yet there are advantages to working there. Storonsky, in that investor call, said that “no one will stay in the team forever,” and that “everyone understands and accepts it.” With examples like Alan Chang proving just how much money working for Revolut can make you, a short period of intense work may be entirely worthwhile.