Look out US main-street banks, the Revolut is coming

Revolut, the new-generation smartphone-based bank which is blowing up Europe right now, has confirmed its intention launch in the United States and Canada later this year, taking its interesting combination of personal banking, crypto wallet and fee-free stocks trading app to main-street North America. Co-founder and CEO Nik Storonsky said the company now has a 60,000 person waiting list for U.S customers for when it launches.

Onstage at TechCrunch Disrupt San Francisco today Storonsky, said the startup, which has already passed the ‘unicorn’ stage of a billion dollar valuation, would be launching some time between October and December this year.

Revolut’s app-based checking account and debit card offers customers payment notifications, built-in budgeting controls and the ability to spend and transfer money globally using the real exchange rate, thus bypassing forex fees.

In the last six months, Revolut has launched a feature allowing customers to buy, hold and sell cryptocurrencies, although these are held within the app’s wallet, and can’t be traded on exchanges. The crypto currencies the company uses to provide this service is also held offline in ‘cold storage’, Storonsky told me on stage. He wouldn’t say where.

Last week, the company launched a fully contactless metal card that gives customers up to 1% cashback on spending in either fiat or cryptocurrency, overseas travel insurance and a personal concierge for booking everything from restaurant tables to festival tickets.

Revolut is also actively working on a commission-free trading platform. This will put it at logger-heads with the US-based Robinhood, which bills itself as a disruptive force in the online brokerage industry, by allowing customers to buy and sell stocks and exchange-traded funds (ETFs) without paying a commission. Why? Because Robinhood has announced its intention to expanding into the personal banking space, while Revolut (a bank) is expanding into Robinhood’s space. It should make for an interesting battle-to-come.

Launched three years ago, London-based Revolut has grown very quickly in Europe. The company has a total of three million customers and claims it is opening over 7,000 new accounts every day. Revolut has raised over $336 million in funding from VCs including Index Ventures, Ribbit Capital and DST Global, and unusually originally crowd-funded its startup capital.

Incumbent US banks would do well to sit up and take notice. They are about to have a very aggressive challenger bank appear on their doorstep which appeals to the many millennials who run their lives via a smartphone.

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