Challenger bank Revolut hires Silicon Valley bankers to run U.S. unit

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Revolut, the U.K. challenger bank that launched in the United States in late March, has hired its U.S. chief executive and its chairman.

Bruce Wallace, a former chief operations officer at Silicon Valley Bank in Santa Clara, Calif., has been appointed chairman of Revolut’s U.S. board. Ronald Oliveira, a longtime bank executive who most recently was president of AvidBank, a business bank based in San Jose, Calif., will be CEO.

“What excited me about what Revolut was doing is they have proof of product, they already know the product works, and 10 million customers can't be wrong,” Oliveira said, referring to its customer base in Europe.

“The U.S. is a different market, but I think the space is ripe for fintech organizations because the technology's here and most everybody's mobile phone is compatible with this,” Oliveira said. “I can't think of anything else I've done in my life where I could be at the cutting edge of something like this.”

There are many challenger banks in the U.S. already, including homegrown ones like Chime and Varo Money as well as the European firms N26 and Monzo. Traditional banks also have digital-only offerings, for instance Wells Fargo’s Greenhouse. All offer mobile access to a checking account and debit card, low fees and budgeting tools and notifications.

Revolut’s differentiator is its support for international payments. Users can spend and transfer money in 150 currencies at the interbank exchange rate and withdraw money from ATMs in other countries.

These features should appeal to expatriates, foreign exchange students and other travelers, Oliveira said.

The early adopters who have been using the app since it launched on Monday are what Revolut calls “referrals” — people who have connections with customers in Europe who are encouraging them to join.

Like most financial service providers, Revolut’s long-term goal is to become people’s primary bank.

“You will see over the next weeks and months to come, we are going to have a continual stream rollout of new products to be added that are very clearly focused at making us front and center the bank that you would want,” Oliveira said.

With his decades of bank experience, Oliveira said his job will be to bridge the gap between Revolut’s technology and the work it has to do to become a trusted bank.

“I do believe the lines are going to blur, and I'm here to help Revolut get to the top of that list.”

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