One of the fastest-growing banking companies in the UK has been accused of a series of HR failings that could lead to employment law breaches, according to our founder Andrew Gray, who was asked about the behaviour of Fintech startup Revolut for the website Wired.

Revolut promised to revolutionise banking and has claimed to acquire 2.8million customers without spending a penny on advertising, and by offering an app and card that provides zero-fee international money transfers, the ability to use digital currency bitcoin, and many other services. However, it has become embroiled in a controversy surrounding employment practices which show everything is perhaps not quite as it seems.

It is reported that a high turnover of staff has resulted from alleged claims that employees are being sacked over failing to reach KPIs, without any discourse taking place to establish why the failure to meet targets occurred, a clear and fundamental HR failing which could lead to unfair dismissal or even discrimination claims.

The bullish and high-octane culture at Revolut has come to light after an anonymous applicant started the process of recruitment for a position as a Spanish Business Development Manager. One task that was required to be passed in order to move on to the next stage of the process, involved recruiting a minimum of 200 new clients for Revolut.

Recruitment procedures which contravene Government guidelines

While there is some confusion over how widespread that recruitment practice is across Revolut’s global offices, it is likely that the task was also required of an applicant for a PR role, where client acquisition is certainly not a central or even relevant feature of the job description. Where an applicant is not paid for effectively carrying out work, this can begin to border on the contravention of Government guidelines.

Truth Legal’s Andrew Gray explained: “Tasks that take more than a day and that have value to the employer beyond testing the applicant, usually attract the National Minimum Wage according to the Government’s guidance. The guidance aims to help employers stay on the right side of the law but is not legally binding. Ultimately the courts would have to decide whether the candidates’ work qualifies for the minimum wage.”

It is nothing new for some organisations to value hitting targets above anything else, of course, but the tactics allegedly used by management at Revolut have resulted in a high turnover of staff, with employees staying at the fintech company much less than the average stay at a startup business of between 18 months to four years, according to research conducted on LinkedIn. It is claimed 80% of Revolut staff stay with the company less than a year, and it appears that even a series of HR professionals may have quit the company.

Revolut have brushed these accusations off as merely their “culture evolving as fast as our business”, and this goes some way to explaining why former employees have talked about very difficult conversations on high-level conference calls and why the CEO has allegedly threatened to sack people who fail to meet their KPIs.

Possible employment claims

Andrew again explained: “An employer who, regardless of reasons, still fires any staff member for failing to meet a KPI seems to me to have made a crude calculation that, on a cost-benefit analysis, they will make more money from the KPIs being achieved, than it will cost them in terms of employment claims being lost.”

It seems a business that has grown so rapidly is in danger of disappearing just as fast, if it can’t retain employees for any significant length of time, and it could also find itself in a quagmire of employment claims. The problems at Revolut are perhaps best summed up by a quote from their CEO Nikolay Storonsky, who talks about the problems faced being a natural by-product of the rapid growth of the company.

“Growth is always through pain”, he says, and there may be an element of truth in that, but unfortunately, HR and employment law cannot be ignored in that process.

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Catherine Reynolds
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