Skip to Content

Uber hires CEO of UK lender Wonga to drive foreign growth


Uber Technologies Inc has hired the former head of a controversial British payday loans company to drive its overseas expansion–just a day after the company paid out $4.4 million for past misconduct, under pressure from its U.K. regulator.

Uber, which is rolling out its car-hailing app business across the world in the face of legal action and other hostility from established taxi drivers, said it had appointed Niall Wass as senior vice president for Europe, Middle East and Africa and Asia-Pacific.

Wonga, which has acquired notoriety in the U.K. along with other payday lenders for perceived predatory practises towards its borrowers, who are mainly among the poorer and more vulnerable sections of society.

On Wednesday, Wonga said it would pay 2.6 million pounds ($4.4 million) in compensation to clients after sending them threatening letters from non-existent law firms in an effort to chase down overdue loans (and charging them administration fees for sending the letters).

Wass spent two and a half years at Wonga, acting as chief executive for the last six months of that time. He left in June. As such, his tenure doesn’t overlap with that particular episode in Wonga’s history, which ran from 2008 to 2010.

Wonga apologised “unreservedly” for its actions Wednesday.

The Wall Street Journal reported that Wass would live in Switzerland but work out of Uber’s headquarters in the Netherlands. That Dutch domicile for the European HQ has become a bone of contention with London’s government, which is concerned at the potential loss of revenue from the city’s economy by the routing of Uber payments through the Netherlands.

Wonga, like Uber, is backed by private equity and venture capital funding.