Finder meets… Anne Boden, CEO of Starling Bank

The first woman to found a UK bank

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Starling Bank CEO and founder Anne Boden is used to being the only woman in the room. Born in Swansea, Wales, she graduated in computer science when female coders were still a rarity and then kickstarted her banking career at Lloyds.

“Throughout my career in big bank technology operations and retail banking, there have been very few women – especially in technology. And now I’m a fintech entrepreneur and there’s hardly any women at all,” she told us.

We met her at the Starling office to talk about Starling – why she founded it and what makes it different from traditional banks – and also about gender equality in finance.

Read our full review of Starling

Quick overview

  • Anne Boden founded challenger bank Starling in 2014.
  • As of August 2019, Starling had a total of 775,000 customers between personal and business accounts.
  • Anne Boden said the challenger bank is on track to hit the 1 million customer mark by the end of 2019.
  • Digital-only banks have been growing enormously in the last few years – according to our digital banking survey, almost two-thirds of Brits are planning to use a challenger bank for their main current account at some point in the future.
  • Anne Boden’s book, The Money Revolution, tells the story of how technology is revolutionising personal finance… and how you can make the most of it, from your banking to your pension.

Video: what makes Starling different?

Why did you start Starling Bank?

I had a long career in traditional banking at the big banks – I was 30 years working all over the world. I came to the conclusion that banking was broken and we needed to start a new bank, so in 2014, I quit my job to start Starling.

Why is Starling Bank different?

You should love the fact that the app is so delightful and there’s everything in a way which is very convenient. We’re very fair in the way we price our products: it’s free. And finally, we’re on a journey together with our customers to make banking better.

What’s Starling Bank planning for 2019?

We’re looking forward to launching euro accounts, credit cards and lots of new features for those people who run their private account and their business account on the same app.

How does Starling Bank make money?

Starling Bank is a bank. So we take in deposits, and those deposits are guaranteed by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme, and we lend those deposits out to businesses and consumers. The difference between what we pay depositors and what we earn from borrowers is our profit margin.
We don’t have many fees and charges. We charge for overdrafts, and that’s about it.

Why should users trust Starling Bank?

We have all of the processes and procedures and regulations to provide a safe and secure safety net for our customers, and of course, our funds are guaranteed by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme up to £85,000.

Your relationship with your bank is special, we’re more than just selling you a product – it’s a very trusting relationship.

I worked in the banking industry for 30 years, but I realised traditional banks are struggling to keep up with the pace of change, and Starling gives you a real bank, with great rates, with no fees and a trusting relationship.

Why should users switch to Starling Bank?

Switching your account to Starling is very easy, you can do it in three minutes on your app. Secondly, once you try us, you’ll keep using us. So just try us and see what you think, I think you’ll love it.
Starling doesn’t have its own branches, but we have a relationship with the Post Office. So you can go into any Post Office, 11,500 Post Offices in the UK, and pay in cash over the counter and have an immediate notification to your phone that everything is safe in your account.

What if people use Starling overseas?

When you use your card overseas, we do not have any additional fees and we don’t put any limits on usage of the ATM overseas. So I think we’re the absolutely best value card for using on your holidays or on your travels.

What does the Starling app look like?

The first woman to found a UK bank: Anne Boden on gender equality in banking

Only one in three UK entrepreneurs is female, official figures say. And, if you’ve ever been to a fintech or to a banking conference, you’ll know how the sector is dominated by white males, especially in senior positions.

Things are changing, albeit slowly. In 2014, Anne Boden was the first woman to found a UK bank, while Alison Rose was announced as the new chief executive of RBS in September 2019, becoming the first woman to lead one of the Big Four (RBS, Barclays, HSBC and Lloyds).

But they are the exception more than the rule. Starling Bank itself, which publishes yearly figures on gender equality among its workforce, declared an average gender pay gap of 21.18% in March 2019. It’s an impressive 11% less than the year before, but it still means that more men than women occupy the top-paying roles.

According to official figures, in 2018 women only held 38% of senior management roles in key financial organisations.

Anne Boden revealed in her interview that she believes the whole system needs a shake-up.

I think we need more role models. We need to make technology something that women do. We need to make it more comfortable for women to be in roles throughout the organisations.

It’s not just about the fairness of it. Banks need to be able to pick up on their customers’ needs – and a lot of them are obviously women.

“By not having 50-50 women and men in roles such as these, everybody loses out. Organisations don’t have that talent, that’s lost; we don’t get the added diversity to create products that are more suitable for a wide variety of people.”

The majority of financial services organisations and tech organisations do not have many women in their senior ranks and throughout the organisation. They tend not to come up to the top. And because of that, the organisation loses diversity and in many cases can’t understand its own customers.

“This sort of job is a great job for a woman – I love it and many of my colleagues do.”

The interview with Anne Boden was recorded in January 2019.

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