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Tinkoff and Revolut: A tale of two challenger banks

A bank with a profitable core business is a better bet than one designed to lose money.


Fourteen years ago, a flamboyant entrepreneur best known for beer and restaurants set up a new kind of financial company in Russia.

Oleg Tinkov’s brainchild, Tinkoff Credit Systems (TCS), eschewed bricks-and-mortar banking in favour of high-volume credit-card business. A remote-only model – which back then meant call centres and couriers – kept costs to a minimum.

Oleg Tinkov comes from a poor family in remote Siberia…

What the firm did spend on was marketing and customer service, both novelties for the Russian banking market at the time. It was also an early adopter of technology, quickly morphing into one of emerging Europe’s most innovation digital players.

As a result, TCS rapidly built a large following among Russia’s growing middle class and by 2013 was able to raise $1.1 billion in a London IPO.

Since then, the firm has steadily expanded its offering, adding a full range of retail banking services, as well as investment products, internet acquiring and even a mobile virtual network operator. Today, Tinkoff Bank – as it is now known – bills itself as a full-service financial ecosystem.


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