Revolut and the cost of toxic culture

the fish rots from the head

Earlier this year I wrote “The fish rots from the head“, sharing my experience over the years that toxic culture starts from the top, that:

“People observe their leaders, so no matter how much money is invested by HR and LnD in people, if the leadership are not, well, leading in their behaviours, all of that money invested is wasted. Change must come from the top as well as from all levels within.”

Well, folks, let me introduce you to Nickolay Storonsky, founder and CEO of Revolut, a terrific example and lesson leaders can learn from.

His business has hit the headlines this past week with an exposé from Wired magazine on their hiring practices, but they hit my “rotting fish radar” some time ago by the CEO’s attitude in press interviews. Let’s explore.

In late 2017, a brilliant friend and colleague introduced me to Revolut, a fintech start up challenging banks and credit cards and one I love as a product and have used ever since.

However, as one might expect from me, I was interested in the company behind the product and alarm bells rang for me as I read an article in the FT in Feb 2018: “Revolut’s Nikolay Storonsky on long hours and high staff turnover“.

Suffice to say his words around not wanting staff to overwork rang hollow given a) he noted that he is in the office 14 hours a day, and b) the evidence of staff turnover despite his words to the contrary.

I immediately gave a heads up to a few key people in the London FinTech sector that I had serious concerns around this company due simply to that one article/

I’ve had my radar up around this ever since, remembering “the fish rots from the head, then I first realised that Wired had seen that “something was rotten in the state of Denmark”, so to speak, when I saw this tweet:

Oh, who is @DHH ? David Heinemeier Hannson, co founder of Basecamp, a highly successful tech company that (shock!) never too Private Equity money, and (double shock!) built a product that they charged people for from day one.

I have been a big fan of David and his co-founder Jason Fried for many years, including the way they share their learning so openly, notably through writing a series of terrific books on leading businesses.

Their latest book is one I am far more aligned with than any single thing the CEO of Revolut has to say about work culture. You’ll get the gist from the cover of the book below.

Do read the Wired piece and the thread of replies to David’s tweet (he gave some sage advice to people in there too)

Oh, and I’m actively looking for a replacement product to Revolut. I simply don’t feel comfortable using a product from a company that treats their people that way. Any ideas for me ? Thanks !

it doesnt have to be crazy at work



Also published on Medium.

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