TransferWise CEO Hinrikus steps aside for co-founder Käärmann

TransferWise CEO Hinrikus steps aside for co-founder Käärmann

TransferWise CEO Taavet Hinrikus is stepping down, handing over the reins at the fintech unicorn to his co-founder Kristo Käärmann.

Having built up one of the most successful of the fintech challengers over the last seven years, former Skype director Hinrikus is going part-time as chairman, although he insists that he will be "closely involved" in the future of the firm.

Estonians Hinrikus and Käärmann founded TransferWise while they were both working in London because they were frustrated by the "pain of international money transfer" with its high bank charges and the euro to pound conversions.

Using a peer-to-peer model to get the best rates for consumers, the company has quickly grown and now lets people in 38 countries send money to receivers in 61. In the UK, the firm now has a 10% market share, helping it to hit $100 million in annual revenues and move into the black.

Under Hinrikus, TransferWise has pursued an aggressive bank-bashing strategy, branding established lenders as 'rip-off artists' in a series of brazen advertising stunts. Last year, the firm was judged to have gone too far by the UK's Advertising Standards Authority, which clamped down on misleading claims about the absolute savings enjoyed by customers.

Hinrikus also made headlines earlier this year when he suggested that startups should avoid London because of Brexit.

In a Medium post, he says that he will now "find more time to do more of what I love, focusing on disruption and helping the tech ecosystem flourish".

Meanwhile, TransferWise will continue to pursue growth, aiming to move into new counties and turn its 10% UK market share into a 10% global market share. The firm is also moving beyond money transfers into 'borderless' multi-currency bank accounts. Business and freelancer versions are already live, with a consumer option in the pipeline.

And an IPO could happen down the line, says Hinrikus: "In a few years it will be time to think seriously about becoming a public company like the strongest and most trusted financial institutions are. But when we do that we will explore that through our own lens — how will it help our customers? How will it help us achieve our mission faster?"

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