When I heard Anne Boden was setting up an entirely new bank I just had to talk with her. The world of finance has a long pedigree and it’s usually a male one: a woman embarking on this certainly piqued my interest. This video clip of Anne on BBC Breakfast will tell you more.
Jane: Anne, what were your early years like? Was there anything to indicate that one day you’d end up running your own bank?
Anne: I spent thirty years in banking – starting at 21 on a graduate programme and working my way up to becoming COO and CIO at some of the world’s biggest banks. Having studied chemistry and computer science, the shift into banking might have been a little unique – especially back in the 80s – but honestly I don’t think it’s surprising I ended up running a bank.
What’s special right now is that I’m getting to build Starling from scratch. We’re more of a tech company with a banking license than a traditional bank. We’re not trying to be a little RBS or little Lloyds. We’re entirely digital and we’re leading the way in terms of revolutionizing the way people do their everyday finances. Doing this wasn’t even possible five years ago – new regulations have made it easier for challengers to come in and create some competition in banking. So to be building Starling is something no one could have predicted almost right up until it happened.
Do you remember what your very first paid job was?
My first job was at Lloyds but things could have been very different. I applied for lots of jobs after university – most in science where I could use my computer science degree. But it was my mum who encouraged me to apply for job in a bank and it felt like such a fast turn around after that – suddenly I was 21, working in London, in a job made for me as one of few CS grads into Lloyds. It was a time where grad programmes were very generous – and I learned a huge amount in those first few years.
Anne, did you have a career plan that you followed? How did you end up in banking?
Not really. I wanted a job with a briefcase. That was my goal as a young girl. Now I have a job with a Prada handbag. However, I would say I have the career I set out to have. At an early age I wanted to be part of the business world – because of television mainly. My parents weren’t in business; my mother was in fashion and my dad was in the steel industry, but I wanted to run businesses despite not really knowing what was involved back then.
What do you think has been a key part of your success in all your various roles?
Tenacity and openness to new experience. I never stopped learning and growing in any role I took on. And I never stopped being curious and interested in the latest technology either. Moreover, I never saw reason to pull back when there was opportunity to go forward – regardless of the obstacle, I always found a way to overcome it.
Finance is, of course, historically male dominated. Have you ever experienced any issues because of your gender?
Finance is certainly a male dominated field – especially back in the 80s. But was it a plus or a hindrance? It’s a tricky one to answer because when I started, people didn’t talk about the lack of women at all. It was how it was and we got on with it. The gender gap didn’t preoccupy me and I wasn’t sensitive to it. But only in recent years did I realise it was harder and I had to struggle more because I was a woman. In other words, I was never particularly paranoid but always managed to achieve when people said it was not possible. Only when you look back do you realise it was so difficult. And really the banking sector is a much better place for the women in it today.
The world has tilted a bit slightly with the election of Donald Trump. Do you see that having an impact on your (and others) banking business?
The US Election hasn’t had an impact on us at Starling per se. There wasn’t a lot of cheer in the office though when the news came through – several members of our team are from Silicon Valley – but it’s worth saying that everyone in this world should be respected. I’m quite sad that we have a lot of not very sophisticated or considerate debates in the US in the last few months. I very much hope that this does not continue to be a trend in the future.
Why did you choose to launch a new bank? What do you think you can do differently?
When I started Starling it was because I could see that after the financial crisis, the world had changed. People had changed. And technology had changed too. So much more was possible – and young, nimble fintech companies were shaking things up in payments, foreign exchange, and so on. But nothing had changed in banking. It was still uncompetitive, far from customer-centric, and built on technology from before any of us were born.
Starling is about shaking the traditional banking system up. About transforming your day-to-day experience of money. We’re not like any other bank – we’re all about adapting to your life rather than interrupting it. Banking with us will be fast, efficient, quick, on the mobile. We’ll fit into a busy lifestyle, provide flexible banking, and do so with detail oriented and precision. In other words, we’ll be able to provide you with tools to see if you have enough money for end of the day, the week, the month or even life.
What’s the best piece of advice you have been given, and by whom?
If I had taken all the advice that I had been offered throughout my career then I wouldn’t be where I am today. A lot of advice comes with the baggage of the other party. Don’t be burdened with everyone else’s hang-ups, you have enough of your own.
And what advice would you give to anyone looking for a career in finance?
If you’re prepared to work twice as hard and are twice as ambitious, you’ll get as far as men do. You will have to be brighter than the competition and have more energy and work harder. You’ll get on if you do all these things. It’s about tenacity. Until decision-makers are unbiased, it will always be harder. There’s a huge amount of bias in men and women. You have to fight harder, longer. Find your role models and mentors, build your support network. They’ll make the fight more bearable.
Finally Anne, if I were to make you Queen of all she surveys for one day, what piece of legislation, or changes, would you like to introduce?
But the Queen is not able to introduce legislation! The cause I feel most passionate about is equality of opportunity. I am not talking just about gender diversity but much broader equality issues especially with regard to access to education. Legislation to bolster this is something I would love to see introduced.
Anne, thank you so much for you time and I wish you huge success with Starling. Somehow. I think it will be a familiar name to all of us before long.
If you’d like to find out more about Starling bank please click this link to their home page.
If you’re a coach or trainer with a passion for women’s development do check out RenewYou.
Posted on November 30th, 2016 by Jane