To truly understand the real world of modern digital technologies you have to experience using them, and I go to great lengths to do this. I've had two accounts at UK 'challenger bank' Revolut since late 2018, one personal, the other a business account, and have used them both regularly to test performance and user experience. Revolut hopes to open for business in the USA soon.
As I said in previous posts at the beginning of the year, when Revolut is working performance is satisfactory but their black-box approach to interactions with the rest of the world results in countless compliance disasters for users.
After writing about the widespread horror stories you can easily find online of frozen accounts and lack of timely support problem resolution, I had assumed that Revolut would be improving their performance and offerings as they matured from an immature startup to what could be a credible financial services company.
My real-world Revolut services use story started after I did a consulting and advisory project with a large European Fortune 500 that was completed early this year. I chose to test 'Revolut Business' as a payment destination for a low five-figure amount against the client's purchase order once the project was completed, and sent the Revolut account details with our invoice. The very large global business entity then made no effort to pay for months, and during this time Revolut changed the interbank account information that was in the invoice. Once the client finally made efforts to pay there were multiple client batch transfer runs scheduled to various updated Revolut business account details that never successfully reached our account. As this was driving both sides of the transaction crazy I also sent the client my personal Revolut account details to see if the money could be routed through that account to settle it. Although the client said the money had successfully left their account destined for Revolut, there was no trace of it in either Revolut account.
At this point, after a couple of time-consuming but unsuccessful conversations within Revolut's app-only support, I emailed Revolut communications people to let them know about the issue and also to inquire about any new information they might like to let me know about to keep me up to date on their progress.
This resulted in a couple of terse email exchanges (bizarrely) with Revolut's PR agency, including legal threats if I didn't write about the above problem accurately and that it was not Revolut's problem. I then continued to invest substantial amounts of time communicating with Revolut support and established that they intended to return the money to my client but this may take several weeks. I haven't had time or the heart to tell the client this ordeal will resume again. they will probably read about it in this post...
Sent to outer space
What then followed was unprecedented in my long history of using multiple banks around the world: on Friday 13th September both my accounts were locked by Revolut, which means as the account holder I have no visibility into the funds Revolut hold and am asked to contact support to resolve whatever the issue is Revolut feel is a problem. I'm sure my contacting Revolut's communications department with details of the failed transactions was just a highly remarkable coincidence to this unique new experience...but I have never been locked out of a bank account before, let alone two accounts.
As of today, despite multiple interactions with Revolut's online robotic and even human support they have been unable to tell me why the accounts are locked and what I would need to do to regain access to them. There appears to be no urgency on the part of Revolut to help customers resolve these mysterious issues or even to tell them what their problem is. Their breezy informal written communications are infuriating.
After my previous ZDnet posts, I received multiple cries for help from Revolut users who were in the predicament I am now in - in the dark about what the problem is and with no idea when or if the problem will be resolved. Now I know how they felt. If I was relying on these accounts to pay for the roof over my head and food, or needed to make payroll and office rent from the business account this would be a massive problem.
Challenger fintech banking startups are breaking new boundaries and as I said in my recent post about the brave new world of cryptocurrencies, lack of awareness about regulatory focus and oversight is a huge problem.
Critics say banks are under huge pressure to monitor activities and face huge fines if they fail to catch offenders, putting them in a difficult situation of needing huge numbers of compliance staff to resolve issues and lookout for signs of money laundering. Briefly, it appears compliance is 'outsourced' by government regulators to new challenger banks with the onus on them to police for money laundering and inappropriate behaviors.
I'd be grateful if anyone at Revolut past or present could give me a sense of what internal processes are like by getting in touch with their perspectives for the next post on this saga. Unfortunately, I can't do anything but commiserate with Revolut customers in who are in a similar position to me so please don't ask me to help with your house payment challenges, return flight home problems or other predicaments frozen accounts create.
I did ask Revolut communications in an email whether they invest the money they are sitting on in frozen accounts for profit, but they didn't respond to that question.
From my perspective, at this point, the only unique business attribute Revolut have is their ability and apparent regulatory permission to freeze your assets for an indeterminate amount of time and do who knows what with them, and that can't be allowed to continue.
I have no clients in the banking industry and no allegiances to competitors of Revolut. I wrote this purely as someone using Revolut as a service.