A European fintech that has been described by some as “the Amazon of banking” has become the latest so-called neobank to launch in Australia.
Revolut opened a beta version of its local app on Thursday, with nearly 20,000 Australians on its waiting list simply, the firm says, from word of mouth.
The company has set up its Australian headquarters in Melbourne, where it will be hiring up to 30 people by the end of the year.
It’s one of a number of fintechs seeking to disrupt Australia’s banking system and eat away at the big four’s dominance, as Revolut and rivals Monzo, Starling and Atom Bank have managed in the UK.
A change in the federal budget last year reduced barriers to new entrants following the financial services royal commission – reducing capital requirements from $50 million to $3 million – and paved the way for the increased competition.
Volt Bank, Xinja and 86 400 – all based in Sydney – are working towards a launch date, while reports say China’s WeBank is doing the same.
Xinja chief executive Eric Wilson said the neobank has 14,000 customers using a pre-pay card, and hopes to go live with banking and personal lending services within the next 12 weeks once it gets a full banking license.
“It’s all hands on the pumps, we’re all ready to go,” he said.
Melbourne-based Judo Capital launched earlier this year with an offering aimed at lending to small and medium enterprises.
Revolut will offer Australian users the opportunity to hold up to 15 different currencies – including the Australian, New Zealand and US dollars, the British pound and euros – and transfer between them easily and cheaply.
“If you try to do that at a traditional financial institution you’ll be incredibly ripped off,” Will Mahon-Heap, Revolut’s Australian manager, told AAP.
Revolut clients will be able to access their funds via a Visa card, and the app comes with sophisticated money management features, he said.
“Banks, what they offer you in terms of an app is really basic,” Mr Mahon-Heap said.
Revolut’s app lets people set spending limits and monthly budgets on categories like restaurants, groceries and transport, as well as transfer money to other Revolut users instantly for free.
It also gives users an easy way to save by rounding up purchases and putting the change into savings.
Other features available in Europe – including business accounts, stock trading, cryptocurrency support and additional currencies – will come within another 12 to 18 months, Mr Mahon-Heap said.
Revolut has attracted more than five million customers in Europe since it launched in July 2015 in London as a digital alternative to traditional banks.
It has raised $US336 million ($A484 million) in funding from venture capital firms at a valuation of $US1.7 billion, making it a “unicorn” company – a tech startup with a valuation of $US1 billion or more.
Former Credit Suisse trader Nik Storonsky and former Deutsche Bank systems engineer Vlad Yatsenko founded Revolut and serve as its chief executive and chief technology officer, respectively.
On its website, Revolut is looking to fill 16 senior roles in Melbourne, including chief financial officer, head of fincrime, head of operations, and head of legal.