" class="no-js "lang="en-US"> Exclusive: 'Broken banks: The rise of Starling' - Doug Mackenzie, Fintech Finance in "The Fintech Magazine"
Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Exclusive: ‘Broken banks: The rise of Starling’ – Doug Mackenzie, Fintech Finance in “The Fintech Magazine”

We all think we know the Starling story, but if you’re a fintech junkie, Anne Boden’s short history of broken banking and how she fixed it is compulsive reading, says Doug Mackenzie

Fintech as an industry is small, almost to the point of cliquiness, so when one of its forerunners pens an insider account that charts the beginnings, trials and tribulations of the sector, everyone takes notice. Anne Boden has written a detailed work – despite it being under 300 pages long.

And, just to be clear, the juicy section on the infamous Boden/Blomfield split during the launch of Starling Bank is just a minor part of it. This gossip-worthy milestone in fintech’s short history somewhat inevitably seized the headlines leading up to the book’s release, but the real joy comes from reading how Boden upset the whole darn industry applecart.

It’s easy to forget what banking was like before the challengers came along: an industry that was licking its wounds after the 2008 crash, characterised by greed and incompetence. Large, empty branches, poor digital offerings and early closing times – everything that would make the savvy digital banking customer of today grind their teeth.

It’s against this backdrop that Boden starts the story – in Dublin, as she heads into work at one of the worst-hit institutions of the crisis, Allied Irish Bank. It was on this journey that she started to pull together her ideas of what banking should really look like.

In this regard, the work definitely has a typical ‘business’ book formula: a plan that no one had thought of before, and a playbook of how that plan was executed. Boden rapidly takes us through the significant ups and downs of what was no easy feat – banking is, after all, an obstinate beast.

To achieve change, she would need to attract talent (enter stage right Tom Blomfield, the CTO who would later leave to found rival Monzo and other familiar players in the fintech ecosystem); funding (almost exclusively given to men, with Boden pointing out gender disparity that will leave readers aghast); and, ultimately, regulatory approval (the final hurdle to achieving the seemingly impossible).

While a lot of the stories are already widely known to those in the fintech community, in Boden’s book we finally have a narrative provided by one of the leading actors – which is also where, potentially, the book comes unstuck. While Boden has said that Banking On It is not a memoir, it still gives one player’s side of the story – although I’m sure we will hear the other versions in the near future.

Undoubtedly, the strongest aspect of the book is the hunt for venture capital. Boden brings to life a parade of obscure and absurd individuals that could make or break her new bank: from an investor wrapped in a fur coat who wanted her to beg, to the incredible anecdote about how Harald McPike, Starlng’s biggest backer, came into the picture.

Having nearly lost Starling Bank, Boden had to start again. That much turmoil might have spelt the end for most businesses but this is where her affable and hardworking nature shines through. While the narrative is strictly from Boden’s perspective, Starling has stayed true to Anne Boden’s vision outlined in the book and they look set to become the first of the UK’s retail Neobanks to achieve profitability.


This article was published in The Fintech Magazine: Issue #06, Page 98

People In This Post

Companies In This Post

  1. Root Accelerates Expansion Plans After Invenfin Investment Read more
  2. J.P. Morgan to provide account validation services to the U.S. Government Read more
  3. MindBridge Expands Financial Risk Discovery Platform Read more
  4. eMoney Advisor Introduces Multi-View in Decision Center, Improving Advisors’ Ability to Collaboratively Plan with Clients Through Personalized Dashboards Read more
  5. XXImo Becomes a Visa Principal Member, Strengthening Its Position as a Leading European Mobility Platform Read more