Kristo Käärmann and Taavet Hinrikus, the Estonian founders of the money transfer company, Wise, have significantly improved their positions in the Sunday Times Rich List 2023 of the wealthiest people in the UK, compared with the list a year before.
When in the 2022 Rich List, Käärmann was listed as 198th with the net worth of £865 million, then in the Sunday Times Rich List 2023, he’s ranked as 156th, being worth £1.134 billion.
Taavet Hinrikus, the other founder of Wise, was listed as 247th in 2022 with the net worth of £650 million. This year, his rank has improved to 197th with the net worth of £861 million.
The Times mentions that Käärmann was once named by the UK authorities as a “deliberate tax defaulter” – that is because in 2021, he failed to pay a historic tax bill of £720,495. He was later hit with a £365,651 fine.
The newspaper also says that Hinrikus has set up a new entity called Plural Platform that encourages entrepreneurs to become venture capital investors.
The most valuable fintech startup in Europe
Wise – or TransferWise, as it was then known – was launched as a peer-to-peer money transfer startup in London in early 2011. The firm started with making transfers between the British pound and the euro, over the years expanding to other currencies. In 2014, the British businessman Sir Richard Branson, the founder of Virgin Group, invested US$25 million in the TransferWise.
By 2019, TransferWise was the most valuable fintech startup in Europe, valued at US$3.5 billion. By July 2020, its value had increased to US$5 billion, making the founders – Käärmann and Hinrikus – the wealthiest Estonians. In 2020, the company made a £30.9 million (US$43 million/€36 million) profit on a revenue of £421 million (US$587 million/€491 million).
In early 2021, TransferWise shortened its name to simply Wise. The company is headquartered in London but retains a sizable office also in Estonia.
In July 2021, Wise started trading at the London Stock Exchange and after its first day of trading, the company’s shares went up by 10%. The shares opened at £8.00 and closed at £8.80, valuing the company at £8.75 billion – or US$11 billion. The company’s market capitalisation at the time of writing this article – on 20 May 2023 – was £6.1 billion or US$7.6 billion.
An Indian family tops the list
The first in the Sunday Times Rich List 2023 is Gopi Hinduja and his family with the net worth of £35 billion. They’re the owners of the Hinduja Group, an Anglo-Indian transnational conglomerate that is present in eleven sectors including automotive, oil and specialty chemicals, banking and finance, IT, cyber security, health care, trading, infrastructure project development, media and entertainment, power and real estate.
The second is Sir James Ratcliffe with the net worth of £23.613 billion. Sir James is the chairman and chief executive officer of the Ineos chemicals group, which he founded in 1998.
Sir Leonard Blavatnik is ranked third in this year’s Rich List with the net worth of £8.625 billion. He is a Ukrainian-born American-British business magnate and philanthropist. Blavatnik made his initial fortune after the collapse of the Soviet Union in the privatisation of state-owned aluminum and oil assets. He owns most of Warner Music Group and has stakes in several publicly traded assets. In 2017, Blavatnik received a knighthood for services to philanthropy.
The Sunday Times Rich List is a list of the wealthiest people or families resident in the United Kingdom ranked by net wealth. The list is published as a magazine supplement by the Sunday Times since 1989. It is not limited to British citizens and it includes individuals and families born overseas but who predominantly work and/or live in Britain.