March 18, 2018

Today’s episode is like a crystal ball glimpse into the future of banking, narrated by my guest, Anne Boden, the thoughtful and charismatic Founder and CEO of Starling Bank in the UK.

Anne has years of experience at large banks, including in IT roles. At one of them, she led an effort to develop an innovation transformation. It brought her to a critical conclusion:  that the only way to create a really innovative bank is to start “from scratch.” When the UK government in 2013 responded to the financial crisis with a new type of charter, Anne founded Starling.

Starling was the first of what the UK calls “Challenger Banks,” designed to foster increased market competition. It is also a “digitally-native” bank, built as a fully digital business, for the digital age.

Starling is mobile-only. It operates on open platform principles and leverages the new personal data rules in Europe. These say that financial data belongs to the consumer, not the bank, and require companies to implement the customer’s instructions to share account information with any entity the consumer chooses. Among other things, this makes bank accounts “portable,” and also give customers the right to terminate such arrangements and to control how the data can be used.

Building on this is a new emerging business model that is, again, essentially a platform. In Starling’s case, they take deposits and do payments, and then they operate what they call a “marketplace” with specialized partners that offer their customers everything from mortgages to insurance, to an array of financial management tools.

One result is efficiency.  Anne says 100 or 150 people can do work that needs 10,000 at a large bank.

Another is innovation. She talks about how hard it is to seed and propagate an innovation culture at traditional banks, and why they can’t just buy the technology they need and plug it in. As she puts it, “some poor CIO somewhere has to be brave enough to press the button.”

Anne also notes that the as the platform model disaggregates traditional functions, the front end of the chain -- the customer relationship and interface -- might separate off and end up in the hands of Google, Facebook or Twitter.

Our conversation included her insights on how this new model will evolve; the roles of each partner; why Starling chose to become a bank instead of offering a prepaid card; and how hard it is to do that -- the high attrition rate among those that attempt it.

Starling customers (who, by the way, are not just millennials) have a new kind of financial life. They can simply ask Starling, by voice, whether they can afford to buy a car. They can opt to have bank statements itemize by a given shop, right down to the cheese sandwich and the diet coke. Anne says they could add calorie counts to that and can integrate it with health information from the fitness app, and suddenly, money, lifestyle, and health are integrating in new ways.

More on Anne Boden

Three decades ago, Anne Boden pioneered the UK’s first same-day payment service – and in the process transformed the future of electronic money. Today, that revolutionary zeal continues to inform her work at Starling Bank, the mobile-only current account app she launched earlier this year.

Recently recognized as one of the Global Power Women in FinTech, Anne’s worked at a senior leadership level across some of the world’s best-known financial heavyweights, among them Lloyds and Royal Bank of Scotland. It was during her tenure as CEO of Allied Irish Banks, however, that she began to explore the exciting potential of financial technology for transforming customer’s everyday lives.

At heart a tech startup with a banking license, Starling is a challenger bank built on a foundation of disruptive emerging technology, competing with traditional legacy banks and helping people develop a healthier relationship with their money.

More for our listeners

Upcoming shows will include Cross River Bank CEO Gilles Gade; Michael Wiegand, who heads the Gates Foundation’s work on financial services for the poor; NerdWallet CEO Tim Chen; and the CEO’s of two community banks — Eastern Bank and Radius bank. And there’s much more in the pipeline!.

I hope to see you at upcoming events including:

  • CFSI’s Fintech and the Federal Government: How Policymakers and Startup Companies are Exploring Financial Innovation, March 15, U.S. Senate, Washington
  • Innovate Finance Global Summit, March 19-20, London, UK
  • Regulation and Innovation in the Age of FinTech, with FSD AfricaCambridge Centre for Alternative Finance and RegHub, March 22-23, London, UK
  • Lendit Fintech USA, April 9-11, San Francisco, CA
  • Bank Director, The Reality of Regtech, April 18, New York, NY
  • Texas Bankers Association Annual Conference, May 3, Houston, TX
  • Women Corporate Directors Global Institute, May 10, New York, NY
  • Comply 2018, May 16, New York
  • CFSI’s EMERGE, June 6-8, Los Angeles, CA
  • American Bankers Association Regulatory Compliance Conference, June 26, Nashville — I’ll be moderating a general session panel on regulation and AI, and also teaming up again with the ABA for some special podcasts.

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