Exclusive chat with Anne Boden
Two reasons you should be watching Starling Bank’s CEO Anne Boden.
I have a long track record of innovating in the financial sector — I built a bank from scratch in 2014 with just £20mn capital and in 2018 it was named Britain’s Best Bank. Starling’s offer is expanding every day and we have now formally launched Starling for Business for to SMEs and entrepreneurs across the UK.
How did you help pioneer Britain’s first same-day payment service?
I kicked off my career on the Lloyds Banking Group graduate scheme. While there, I was lucky enough to be part of the team of engineers to design and delivers CHAPS (Clearing House Automated Payment System).
Tell me about your latest venture — the mobile-only current account app Starling Bank.
In my second year as Chief Operating Officer at Allied Irish Banks in Dublin, I realised that I couldn’t make the changes I wanted to in a legacy bank and decided to start a new bank. At Starling, all the systems were built from the ground up, all 100 per cent digital and designed to empower customers and help them manage their money in a simple, efficient and cheap way.
I wanted to make sure that technology and customer experience were at the core of every user’s experience with no administrative burdens. Now customers can download an app and securely open a personal or business account in just three minutes.
Who helped bankroll this challenger venture? How do you make money now?
Starling is grateful for our investor Harald McPike – an algorithmic trader. Harry put £48mn into Starling in 2016 which was one of the largest early-stage investments for a tech company in the UK at the time. As our product has developed we have three key sources of revenue: Starling Payment Services – including SEPA, BACS, Merchant Acquisition amongst others that will service business and personal accounts; the Starling Marketplace where we are aiming to host 25 partners by the end of the year; and our in-app Overdrafts.
What advice do you have for other entrepreneurs trying to secure that kind of finance?
It’s never going to be easy but don’t give up and never take no for an answer. Take feedback on board and persist until your proposition is too good to refuse.
Do you have any expansion plans? What do you believe the key to growing this business?
Our plan is to develop our Euro account and then open Starling to consumers in Ireland and across Europe. We are aiming for Starling to be available in 10 countries across Europe by 2020.
The launch of the Starling for Business account creates huge opportunities for us to disrupt the small business banking market as we have the retail market, and we will be applying to the RBS state aid fund to help us grow this area further. The RBS fund has a chance to help truly disrupt the market by supporting real innovators but with large banks like Santander signalling their intent to bid, digital challenger banks risk being locked out of a unique opportunity to increase access for businesses and diversify the sector.
Starling Bank works with hundreds of growing SMEs. How do you secure their sensitive data and information?
Building the bank from scratch means that all the systems and technology are controlled and owned by Starling. We are not blighted by legacy IT problems like we have seen at TSB. All our data, both from personal and business accounts, are secured within our systems and upholding our obligations to keep it secure will always be our priority.
Your biggest business regret so far?
I would say not starting Starling sooner but the technology that makes what we do possible has only allowed us to build Starling when we have.
As a fintech entrepreneur, how do you see London performing in the next five years?
London has fuelled the UK’s fintech revolution. It is the home of our Government and regulators, an ever-growing source of investors, and it remains the destination for talent. The growth we’ve seen in London is only going to continue and I hope this spreads across the UK to other budding tech hubs.
Any London start-up/s you watching, and why?
I am always watching new start-ups, and through our marketplace we are lucky to partner with some great innovators in the fintech space. Companies like Wealthsimple and Habito are the sort of innovations that are challenging incumbents in financial services. Beyond my sector, the health and medical industry has long been in need of shaking up and there are some fantastic teams working on products to do this.