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Fintech start-up Revolut aims to become a bank as it applies for European license

  • Once licensed under European rules, Revolut said it will offer deposit and credit services
  • Chief Executive and Co-Founder Nikolay Storonsky explained that the push to become a bank was part of his fintech firm's ambition to expand in Europe
  • The firm also aims to launch cryptocurrencies on its app "towards the end of November, early December"
Revolut

Financial technology (fintech) start-up Revolut is seeking to obtain a European banking license, and aims to expand its app-based bank to new markets.

The London, U.K.-based firm is currently a financial services firm but is hoping to obtain a formal banking license in the region so it can offer more to its customers. Once licensed under European rules, it would be able to provide deposit and credit services, including overdrafts, personal loans and deposits held at a fixed term. Customers would also be able to deposit savings of up to 100,000 euros ($115,765), under EU protections.

Launched in 2015, Revolut's app currently allows customers to open a current account in 60 seconds, and includes a pre-paid contactless MasterCard debit card, currency exchange and a peer-to-peer payments service.

Chief Executive and co-founder Nikolay Storonsky explained that the push to become a bank was part of his fintech firm's ambition to expand in Europe.

"Revolut is aggressively expanding its product range and geographic areas of operation. As a global financial services institution, we've accepted that we operate in a highly regulated environment where consumer protection and trust are paramount," he told CNBC in an email Monday.

"As such, we're embracing the higher regulatory and reporting burden associated with running a bank, as an inevitable consequence of building trust in our brand. We know we'll be held to a very high standard of service and are prepared to demonstrate our ability to meet that challenge."

The firm is one of many challenger banks that are taking aim at the customer base of more established lenders. As incoming European rules force banks to open up their customer data to third parties, fintech start-ups are hoping to take advantage.

A number of challengers have been set up across Europe, including Britain's Starling Bank and Germany's N26. Both Starling and N26 have already secured banking licenses.

Asked how the firm differentiated from its fintech competitors, Storonsky said: "We'll continue to innovate and offer great products to our users. We'll also have a higher level of regulatory oversight which we believe will build trust in our brand. Sometimes the best way to disrupt an industry is from within, so keep watching this space."

The business said it had been in talks with Lithuania's central bank to prepare ahead of its EU license application.

Growth

Revolut has grown significantly since it was launched in 2015 by co-founders Storonsky and Vlad Yatsenko.

In February last year, the currency exchange start-up raised $4.8 million in funding from venture capital investors.

Then in June this year, Revolut branched out into the business market, launching business accounts on its app.

A month later, it raised $66 million in funding, and said it would look to expand its operations further across Asia and the U.S.

As well as applying for a banking license, Revolut has started building its own in-house payment processor.

Storonsky, who is a former Credit Suisse trader, said: "I'm sure companies like Amazon were told that they were biting off more than they could chew. We are an innovative fintech company and our speed is the reason why we are one of the fastest growing tech companies in the continent. Building our own in-house payment processor is about increasing our control and improving our services."

It plans to dip its toes into the cryptocurrency market as well, and said it will allow users to hold, exchange, spend and transfer cryptocurrencies like bitcoin and ether on its app soon.

"We're aiming to launch cryptocurrency towards the end of November, early December," Storonsky told CNBC.

At present, Revolut users are able to spend abroad in over 120 currencies with no fees. They can also hold and exchange 25 currencies and transfer money around the world for free.