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10 UK fintech unicorns hiring now. What it's like to work for them

The term ‘Unicorn’ is one that has become increasingly ironic as the fintech industry has continuously gathered steam in recent times. Named after the illusive mythical creature (and national animal of Scotland in case you weren’t aware), it is used to describe a fintech company with a valuation of over $1B. In the term’s infancy, such companies were few enough that the term had merit, but now, in the UK alone, there are well over 20 fintech unicorns in the wild.

These unicorns aren’t content to stop at just $1B either. Ever searching to expand and grow, many of these companies are hiring in large numbers. Below, you’ll find 10 of them that are hiring the most, some reports of what its like to work under them and a few unique and interesting opportunities that some of them may provide.

Funding Circle

Commercial lender Funding Circle achieved its billion-dollar valuation in 2017 and launched its IPO shortly afterwards in 2018 at an initial value of $1.5B. However, this company might be considered just an honourable mention as, since then, its share prices have dropped drastically, and its market cap is now well below that billion dollar mark.

Despite the unfortunate reality that their status as a unicorn has lapsed, reviews of the company by current and former employees are glowing, with significant praise placed upon their culture which, according to one Glassdoor review “actually lives its values rather than just providing lip-service”. This sentiment even extends to their hiring practices as they currently have a Ukraine Relocation Initiative in which they sponsor highly skilled workers displaced by conflict. Some negatives reported by multiple reviews are their lack of career progression, high workload and relatively low pay.

With all this considered, Funding Circle seems the optimal destination for employees that value culture above all. With 31 vacancies listed, all London based, a third of which devoted to engineering, there is plenty of opportunity to get involved.

Blockchain.com

Valuing itself at approximately $14B in March of this year following an increase in funding, Blockchain.com is one of the highest value unicorns in the UK today, having been a pioneer of crypto based finance as early as 2011. With that massive recent growth has come a number of opportunities but there is some debate online as to whether the company is good to work for.

Glassdoor reviews, though leaning towards positive, are very mixed with an average score of 3.6 from 5. There is much praise for the staff and co-workers but also much criticism levied at the higher ups and managerial staff. Terms such as “in over their heads”, “hidden agenda” and, at their snarkiest, “redefining disorganisation” tell the story of a Unicorn that may be biting off more than it can chew with its rapid expansion. Nonetheless, there is still plenty of praise not just for co-workers but for the exciting fast paced work that “really could change the world” and some that criticise the management claim they’re “always trying to improve.”

Blockchain.com currently have 26 vacancies listed including 12 engineering roles, there is plenty of opportunity to get involved in this highly profitable company. Most of those are remote positions too for those that want to embark on a career without having to brave the deathly commute.

Marshmallow

Insurance company Marshmallow occupies a rare niche amongst the rarest of niches by being only the second UK Tech Unicorn to be founded by black entrepreneurs (one of whom is a former hedge fund analyst). Achieving unicorn status just over a year ago, Marshmallow’s ground-breaking approach seems to have won the approval of many of their employees.

Marshmallow has near unanimous positive feedback on Glassdoor with an average score of 4.7 stars. Alongside lots of support for a culture that is “modern and autonomous”, many have cited flexible working and exciting company growth as reasons to join. They are still far from perfect however, as some reviewers have critiqued their middle management, high pressure, high working hours and lack of female representation at a corporate level.

Marshmallow currently have 23 positions available across corporate, operations and tech. If you like diversity at a corporate level and an innovative approach to a centuries old industry, they may offer the tastiest deal you’re likely to find.

OakNorth Bank

Challenger bank OakNorth achieved a valuation of $5B last year and have been a fintech unicorn since 2017. It had previously been called the fastest growing company in Europe in 2020 according to the Financial Times, and even today it looks to continue its impressive growth.

Looking at their positive rating on Glassdoor, it could be assumed that they would be a positive destination to head towards but an alternative network, Blind, tells a very different story. Glassdoor reviews praise the “clear strategy” and particular attention paid to their offices with perks such as an “in-house barista”. Blind reviews, alongside a few on Glassdoor, prefer to criticise management and the “horribly slow top-down process” of decision making. There are still some positive reviews there however, claiming that changes in management have put to rest some, but not all, of the criticisms.

With 60 open positions, including multiple managerial and directorial roles, one can only hope that, as their business continues to grow, their new hires will be able to cement a positive working attitude and overcome previous criticisms.

Thought Machine

Having caught the eye and secured the investment of finance heavy hitters such as Morgan Stanley, banking software engineers Thought Machine have seen their valuation double recently, hitting $2.7B this May. They are but one of many investors however, with the company already having Lloyds Bank and JPMorgan Chase under its impressive client list. This is clearly a company with good connections and a forward-thinking mindset, but does that come at a cost?

Though the work itself of the engineers is highly praised, there are many claims of a “male pale and stale” upper management and “bro culture” making the company a less than appetizing opportunity for those not white or male. The company has aimed to provide justice to its female employees by reducing its gender pay gap from 20% to 13.6% but, unless money is your sole concern, a career here as a woman may still come with some inherent sacrifice.

Thought machine currently has 27 available roles, the vast majority of which are engineer positions. With an average back-end engineer salary hovering around the £70,000 mark and alternative engineering roles paying higher, this appears to be the destination for a good wage and exciting progression.

Wise

Formerly known as TransferWise, this international money transfer business made history when it became publicly traded in July 2021. Not only did it massively exceed its market valuation of around $6B by reaching an $11B valuation, but it also became the largest ever tech listing in London.  With such unprecedented success, they appear to be investing in their growth to match, with a staggering 324 listings worldwide, 102 of which are located in their London headquarters.

With such a large number of recruits being brought in, could too many cooks spoil the broth? To combat such a notion, the nature of most roles in the company is very autonomous, according to reviews from both Glassdoor and Blind. By allowing teams to manage themselves, Wise cuts out the possibility of micromanaging at a corporate level overextending its reach. This is a double-edged sword however, as your work-life balance can vary wildly form department to department. Some reviews are incredibly content whereas others stress that they are overworked.

With an average pay for an engineer coming in at slightly below the London average, Wise appears to be the destination for those willing to sacrifice compensation for independence. Considering their other interesting pursuits such as an Anti-Money Laundering team, it may not be the destination for the most ambitious, but it will be a place where you can get s*** done.

Saltpay

Specialising in small and local businesses, payment services and software provider Saltpay have been able to turn local initiative into worldwide success with a valuation of over $1B. Much like their customers, they appear to have a meritocratic culture that encourages hard work and initiative.

With much acclaim for the “highly driven people” working alongside you and a provision of independence, you can assume that this will be a job where you work hard and get rewarded for the effort you put in. Unfortunately, that reward isn’t too likely to be a monetary one. With an average software engineer pay of £50k falling significantly below the national average.

Saltpay are currently hiring 29 different roles across the United Kingdom and 83 positions globally. If the aforementioned pay is not to the liking of any young graduates, they also offer a 10-week summer scheme for you to whet your whistle and see if their work is a right fit for you.

Checkout.com

Of all the UK Unicorns, one you might presume has the funds to hire in droves is Checkout.com. Having been valued at $40bn after its last bout of fundraising, it is the highest valued fintech unicorn in the UK. As other competitors such as Klarna and Adyen have seen their market value decrease massively in recent times, Checkout.com will be determined to maintain their prestigious status, and hiring the right talent will surely be one method of doing so.

A common thread amongst reviews, both positive and negative, is the fast pace common among start-ups. For some, the speed is “dynamic”, for others, “chaotic and unpredictable,” but at the very least you will know there will always be a number of tasks for you to do.

One significantly negative aspect is that last month the company announced it would be making 5% of its workforce redundant. While it could be seen, as the company states, as an opportunity to “focus on strategic priorities”, the aforementioned struggles of their competitors could paint this as a bad omen for your future job prospects should you choose to work there.

With 53 current listings in London, there is still plenty of opportunities to get involved in London’s biggest fintech company. Though its engineer salary sits slightly below the London average, it provides a number of different roles in areas such as cryptocurrency and integrated platforms to compensate.

Starling Bank

Another bank to feel the positive effects of the fintech boom, Starling most recently achieved a valuation of $2.5B. With 84 individual roles available across multiple offices in London, Southampton, Cardiff, Dublin and Belfast, Starling could be a destination of choice for those who wish to work outside of England’s capital.

Though the average engineers salary sits slightly below the London average, One recent review has praised the bank for its response to the cost of living crisis where it, with “no messing about, gave a decent pay rise.” There has been plenty of praise for their hybrid work plan and work life balance which once more emphasises their commitment to adapting to the modern nature of employment but, at a cost, there has been some criticism of their onboarding process.

Though there has recently been an indication of struggle for the bank after investment bank Jupiter sold their stake at 40% below market value, their extensive hiring practices and adequate compensation for workers indicates that this company are determined not to let the cost of living crisis affect them without letting their workers take the brunt of its impact.

Revolut

A name many would have expecting to read here, Revolut has seen significant success in recent years and, alongside Monzo, staked a claim in the cultural consciousness as one of the most significant up and coming fintech companies. With their most recent market valuation coming in at $33B, the company can afford to bring in top talent with the average engineer’s salary coming in at well above the norm at $85k annually. However, according to multiple reviews of the company, there may be more internal troubles than initially meet the eye.

Glassdoor reviews for Revolut sit at 3.7 out of 5 stars on average. Not the worst, but some way below many other fintech unicorns. It is on Blind however where they are truly struggling with an unenviable score of 2.9. Common threads amongst the reviews are a “KPI focused mentality” and “heavily top-down management” implying that there will be much hard work and little autonomy should you gain employment here.

Revolut currently have 190 open positions, 50 of which are situated in London. If your salary is your number one concern, they may be the destination for you, but be prepared to do as you’re told and do it well.

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Have a confidential story, tip, or comment you’d like to share? Contact: alex.mcmurray@efinancialcareers.com in the first instance. 

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