Pandemic provides boost for Yorkshire as it accelerates move to digital working, says founder of Starling Bank

Anne BodenAnne Boden
Anne Boden
THE pandemic can provide an economic boost for regions like Yorkshire because it has accelerated the move to digital working by a decade, according to the founder of Europe’s fastest growing bank for small and medium-sized enterprises.

Anne Boden said Starling Bank is hiring staff to work remotely in Yorkshire at a time when digital services have become as important as access to heat and light.

Ms Boden, who is the bank's CEO, said: "Leeds is very much a centre for mortgages and credit. There are very good credit skills there.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

"Lots of those people have been commuting to London. Now they can stay in Leeds. We have no plans to open an office in Yorkshire. However, we will be hiring people in Yorkshire to work remotely and the next stage might be to set up a local hub if we have a sufficient number of people working in the region."

After a 30-year career in senior leadership roles at global banks, including Allied Irish Banks, Royal Bank of Scotland and ABN AMRO, Ms Boden founded mobile bank Starling in 2014.

She raised $70 million and obtained a UK banking licence in 2016, launching Starling’s first account in 2017.

London-based Starling offers money management tools in its app-based accounts for individuals and small businesses, as well as an in-app Marketplace providing access to third-party financial services. Starling has more than 2.2 million accounts and now makes a profit.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Ms Boden said: "The world of fintech is not about London. I am so proud of what Starling has achieved during the pandemic. We have 4.4 per cent of the UK SME market and have recruited 357 people during the pandemic...66 per cent of our business is outside London.

"We have to make sure these businesses have the tools to survive in the future. We have been much more flexible in how we hire people. We have had people in Edinburgh and Halifax contact us and say they would love to work for Starling. We want to hire people from anywhere in the UK. The only criteria is that they can occasionally travel to one of our centres.

"Fintech shouldn't be about people who live and work in central London. We don't outsource and we build our own technology. It's about giving great quality jobs to the UK.

"We hope to have something like 18 per cent of the SME banking market in the next five years."

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Last year, Starling Bank raised £40 million from investors as small businesses turned to lenders for support during the coronavirus crisis.

Starling has been lending money to businesses under the Government’s coronavirus business interruption loan scheme (CBILS) and the bounce-back loan scheme.

"It's so important that the organisation has a heart and feels for its customers,'' said Ms Boden. "The pandemic has accelerated the move to digital by 10 years. People will have an opportunity to have choices about where they work. It will make lots of cities which have been left out become fairly prosperous."

Ms Boden said she was concerned that so few women have risen to an executive level in financial services. Around 41 per cent of senior managers at Starling are women.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Ms Boden added: "Things have not moved on that far since I started in the 1980s. I'm a bit of an outlier. Women are held to a higher bar than men. But we shouldn't give up and when we get to senior positions we must speak out.

"The bounce back loans have given businesses the confidence to carry on trading and developing products. The traditional banks have been left behind. They weren't forward thinking.

"They are sitting on billions of pounds of legacy costs and they have a problem about what to do with their branches. They only way they can deal with the problems is to share branches.

"Everything is digital at Starling and this works for the majority of the population including people in their nineties. Access to digital services is as important as access to water and heating."

Comment Guidelines

National World encourages reader discussion on our stories. User feedback, insights and back-and-forth exchanges add a rich layer of context to reporting. Please review our Community Guidelines before commenting.