Fintech firm Wise stock falls after CFO quits, CEO to go on leave

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Kristo Kaarmann, CEO and co-founder of Wise.

Eoin Noonan | Sportsfile | Getty Images

Shares of British fintech firm Wise slipped Monday, after the company said its Chief Financial Officer Matt Briers is leaving the company next year, while its CEO Kristo Kaarman will go on paternity leave starting in September.

Wise shares were down over 3% as of 3.19 p.m. London time, following the management announcements.

“A comprehensive search for a new CFO will commence immediately,” Wise said in a Monday update to investors.

Kaarman, who co-founded Wise alongside Taavet Hinrikus, will take an “extended Wise sabbatical” between September and December to spend time with his family, the company said.

Wise’s Chief Technology Officer Harsh Sinha will step up to take the CEO reins in the interim.

Briers will step down as Wise CFO in March 2024 — once Kaarman has returned from a sabbatical break — to fully recover from a cycling accident that occurred last year.

“After almost eight years it’s time for me to think about my life after Wise,” Briers said in a statement.

“I’m incredibly proud of what we have achieved in these early chapters at Wise and could not be more excited about what is ahead for the business. Wise is growing fast, with a massive opportunity in front of us, and we’ve bucked the trend by working out how to do this profitably.”

In February 2022, Briers was involved in a cycling accident where he went under the wheels of a bus. Wise appointed an interim CFO in his place at the time, while Briers recovered at home.

Briers said that Wise “will likely have many CFOs in its first century and this is simply me starting the process of handing over the reins to the next one.”

In his time as CFO, Briers took Wise from a scrappy money transfer upstart to a publicly-listed financial technology giant with millions of users.

Wise went public in 2021 in London in a rare direct listing — an IPO alternative whereby companies offer stock directly to the public without employing financial intermediaries or creating new shares.

Briers is the second CFO of a major U.K. fintech firm to announce his departure this month — on May. 11, British digital banking startup Revolut said its CFO Mikko Salovaara was leaving after only two years in the job for “personal reasons.”

Shakeup

Analysts at Jefferies said that the management shakeup could be a mid-term positive development for Wise shares, which have underperformed the broader European payments and fintech sector lately.

They speculated that Sinha could be moved up into the CEO role permanently, with Kaarmann becoming executive chairman instead.

This “would allow Käärmann to focus on a broader role to drive the business, while leaving Sinha, who gained experience at PayPal and eBay, to the daily execution,” Jefferies analysts said.

Wise has not indicated that Kaarmann plans to step down as CEO permanently.

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