Ex-Credit Suisse trader gets $91m for cryptocurrency push

LONDON • Former Credit Suisse Group trader Nikolay Storonsky is getting US$66 million (S$91 million) from investors, including Index Ventures, to help expand his business offering banking services and add cryptocurrency exchange for customers.

His Revolut raised the money in a round that also included Balderton Capital and Ribbit Capital, according to a statement yesterday.

Mr Storonsky, 32, will use the funds to expand in Asia and North America, and let customers hold cryptocurrency. He also plans to gather US$5 million in crowdfunding from consumers on Seedrs later this month.

Revolut, which Russian-born Mr Storonsky founded two years ago with former Deutsche Bank technology developer Vlad Yatsenko, makes money from fees on ATM withdrawals and takes a cut from merchant charges on payments in shops.

As early as next week, it plans to let customers hold, exchange, spend and transfer cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin, Litecoin and Ethereum for free, profiting from the price differences between buyers and sellers as opposed to charging commission.

"Adding cryptocurrencies, and the ability to buy and sell them is a big step forward for a financial organisation," Mr Storonsky, who used to trade equity derivatives, said in an interview. "Big banks are looking at us and seeing what we're doing, for future things they want to add to their product pipeline, but they're very slow."

Mr Storonsky is among former bankers such as former JPMorgan Chase executive Blythe Masters and erstwhile Barclays chief executive officer Antony Jenkins who are taking advantage of new technology to win customers in an industry dominated by their old employers.

Although most fintech firms have yet to achieve significant scale and profit, the start-ups as a whole are threatening to upend banks handicapped by creaky computer systems.

Revolut, which currently employs 140 people in London, Krakow and Moscow, is planning to open offices in New York and Singapore and hire about 20 more staff, according to Mr Storonsky.

The Asian and North American growth plan will come "in parallel to expanding in Europe. These are big markets, there's huge demand for our products", he said. "We've got waiting lists and now's the time to enter."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 13, 2017, with the headline 'Ex-Credit Suisse trader gets $91m for cryptocurrency push'. Print Edition | Subscribe