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Revolt Against Bank Fees Mints a $3 Billion Fortune for Fintech Founders

  • CEO and chairman started Wise in London about a decade ago
  • Digital-payments company went public via a direct listing
Taavet Hinrikus, left, and Kristo Kaarmann.
Taavet Hinrikus, left, and Kristo Kaarmann.Photographer: Jake Farra/Wise Plc

Loathing bank fees made Kristo Kaarmann and Taavet Hinrikus two of the richest people in finance.

The pair are among the biggest winners from the direct listing of Wise Plc, the U.K. digital-payments provider they started after becoming fed up with banking costs for global money transfers. The company began trading at 800 pence in London on Wednesday, giving Chief Executive Officer Kaarmann and Executive Chairman Hinrikus stakes worth about $2 billion and $1 billion, respectively, based on data from Wise’s prospectus.

It’s a rare instance of mega-fortunes tied to public fintech firms in the U.K., where industrialists and aristocratic land owners such as Jim Ratcliffe and Hugh Grosvenor dominate the top ranks of the ultra-rich. While the valuations of U.K.-based digital banking startups including Revolut and OakNorth have surged in recent years, Wise is one of the first from the nation’s fintech sector to go public.