How the Tide is turning for the challengers’ Revolut-ion in SME banking

Some of you remember the saga of a few weeks ago where we tried to get a new account for our business. If you don’t, or, if you’re a FinTech masochist and want a reason to feel despondent again you can find it here.

I promised this next instalment and I’ve been ruminating over how to put it to make sure it’s fair and yet captures how we felt going through the adventure. Seeing how I am writing this from the other side of the planet and I’m all traditional-banked-out I’m in an unforgiving mood so I’ve dropped the impartiality requirement and will settle for authentic and honest.

In short and to save you the suspense if you’re too busy to go through the play-by-play and usability dissections of the other players, here’s the gist of it: at the end of the other story we had concluded that on balance we had to choose Revolut and we were going to stick with them as they are the least of all FinTech SME banking evils – we were wrong.


As of today we are the owners of two other intensely functional accounts that do all the things we needed them to: an incumbent – NatWest and a challenger that we had discarded at that time – Tide. No, I’m lying, we are also the owner of a Revolut account which we suspect just won’t die. But let’s rewind.

The Good

Right after our article hit, both Anna and Tide were amazingly communicative and we felt valuable to them as a result. As per a research often cited, they absolutely proved the point that correcting a negative client interaction with a positive one buys the provider even more brand capital than getting it right the first time.

Despite a personal and kind manner, Anna wasn’t quite sure how international transfers even work, at one point they assured me I could still receive international payments in their account despite the fact that they couldn’t provide an IBAN, BIC or Swift number and I had to let them know that’s incorrect but in their defence they openly corrected themselves and also made a concerted effort to augment their chatbot experience and insert humans in the process -be it to correct or explain- which is incidentally the type of sensitivity to one’s consumers and flexibility all banks should have when they start experimenting with chatbots in lieu of following a blind script and trying to fit their customers into it with the same impunity with which they forced us into every other banking product. Not to mention that their card is very cute. Sadly they don’t yet fit the bill for us.

Tide, our now primary account pulled the biggest rabbit out of their product hat and within 24 hours of the article we were informed we now had an international account – in fact a few of them in various currencies!- complete with the magic IBAN/BIC, etc which they couldn’t provide before when we were forced to discard them in favor of Revolut.

We aren’t conceited enough to think we have sped up development of a major service for a challenger bank with our needs, and this surely must be simply a very happy coincidence that they were hours away from releasing the product when we needed it, but either way, it’s nothing short of magical and we are looking forward to making them a lot of money and exploring their features including the direct integration with the accounting software, the invoice maker and the receipt bank. All they need is a business credit card, better categorisation and cash-flow calendar and they will be full stack in terms of basic business needs. Major kudos, if you need an SME business account and are considering a FinTech don’t even think twice, Tide is absolutely the way to go.

Do you know who is full stack already? NatWest. A much fuller stack than we dared hope. In fact, while yes, it took a minute to open the account – from application to confirmation it was around 10 days but that includes the call they made to chat through the model and the purpose, etc and 10 days is no longer than what Metro took a couple of years ago, and certainly not longer than the challengers took between the issues and the glitches- everything else was nothing short of amazing.

Granted, lower expectations are miraculously useful when it comes to the way we experience any banking experience in particular us jaded veterans but by Job they are a joy.

The screenshot-to-show-partners-and-spouse level of delightful features from NatWest include:

  • Double Personal vs. Business views in the app a la mBank (better 5 years later than never!);
  • Receipts scanning type functionality from the same app (although for us the ReceiptsBank app is more nimble to be fair)
  • A credit card that arrived as an almost surprise as it was a mere tick in the application process and has since seen its fair share of usage in various continents already!

 The Expected

Nothing more happened with some of the other ones we mentioned in Part 1– Monzo, Monese, Coconut, etc proceeded to ignore us and not even email us to say they’ll get back in touch or ask why we haven’t completed our registration. The only notable exception is Starling who answered us on Twitter and said they are working on Ltd’s and international transfers so we’ve made a mental note to give them another try when the time comes.

The Downright Ugly

And now for the painful event. How has Revolut managed to fall so far down out of favour?

Before I tell you I’d like to again underline that I had no preconceived ideas about them as some other people in the industry before all of this happened and have often defended them when they had PR disasters (although the latest one where they possibly conned people out of work and time for free is indefensible) and my business partner was a massive fan who had been using them since inception and has often tried to pay me through them even when she was a banker client so there was no a priori ill-will at all. In fact, with how much of an underdog they may have transformed into over night, I actually am still rooting for them because should they succeed by whatever measurement they are applying, it would be a story of learning from mistakes.

What have they done to us then? Not much, just lost our money and didn’t answer us for days.

When we opened the account my partner sent two international payments to test that all is well before we change our invoices to banking clients to ask them to use the Revolut account – one of a symbolic 10 GBP from her Unicredit account and another from her own private Revolut account.

Seeing how you read so far, there are no prizes for which one made it 2 days later whereas the other didn’t make it for 2 weeks straight while their account laid there bare and devoid of any trace of the money we sent and greeted us every morning with a heart-breaking “-15 GBP” (that’s a minus because you see, they grabbed the transfer that did arrive, and fancied we owe them another 15 to make up the 25 a month they decided they would charge us for the privilege of biting our nails and pulling our hair).

That’s right. The money we sent from Unicredit made it, the ones we sent from their own Revolut account did not.

What’s worse? She has had to learn the very hard way that her love had been misplaced all along, as she was the one trying desperately to get them to answer her as to where the hell the other transfer vanished. And try she did. On every possible medium, in every possible tone before at long last, days later, she was told “they don’t know”. Flippantly and with disdain at that. How it made her feel is her story to tell so I’ll see if I can get her to write it for you guys, but you can imagine it.

It will be interesting to see what kind of a struggle we will have on our hands to get them to release us from the yearly contract now that we know they are a joke and want the non-existent service cancelled, and I expect we will be met with no answers and it will end up costing us 300 GBP for the privilege of having found out first hand how far they are from being a real bank with any respect for their consumer.

So it’s farewell Revolut, Tide has changed and to paraphrase my own open letter to Santander a couple of years back – it wasn’t us, it is you.

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