Starling CEO: Building a $1.5 Billion Business Against The Odds: Anne Boden | E107 | Transcription
Transcription for the video titled "Starling CEO: Building a $1.5 Billion Business Against The Odds: Anne Boden | E107".
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was humiliating reading in the press what had happened. I got fled twice in six months. Unless we could raise funding. I was never paid. There weren't going to be any jobs. And after six months, I just thought I can't work with this person. You had a tough time. Really damaging to me and my mental health. Tom didn't think I was capable. And so I resigned. Nothing was going to stop starting succeeding. People don't start banks. And if they do start a bank, they are probably a billionaire. When I started talking to people about, I'm going to start a bank. You know, I could see people thinking I was totally crazy. I hadn't raised a penny. The only money that had gone into the business was my money. And he said, no, I'm not going to give you 3 million. I'm going to give you 40. I have the privilege of running Starling. And it is a privilege. And there's lots of things going wrong and lots of pressures on me. But it's a great privilege to have. If you've been listening to this podcast for a while, you would have heard the episode I did with Tom Blomfield. He was the former CEO and founder of Monzo Bank, one of the big FinTech, disruptor banks here in the UK. And during that episode, he also tells us the story of his time at Starling Bank, the rival bank that he co-founded with Ann Boden. And that episode is dramatic. It should be a movie. They talk about their fallout. In the episode, Tom claims that Ann fired 16 members of Star from the same day. So in this episode, Ann wanted to come in to tell her side of the story, but also to tell her story. And it's an incredible story. It's an inspiring story. It's a story that doesn't quite make sense in the fact that she's achieved so much in an industry where she was an underdog at an age when she also admits she is an underdog, confronting stereotypes that make her an underdog. And despite the odds being stacked against her, she's built a multi-billion dollar bank here in the UK. It really is a crazy story. One that I believe one day will be a Netflix show. Think about that. Two people came together to take on the banking world. They came together and founded a bank called Starling Bank. They had this major blow up. They separated and starts again. And they both build incredibly successful multi-billion dollar banks individually. It is one hell of a story. It twists, it turns, and it inspires you. So without further ado, I'm Stephen Bartlett. And this is the Diro over CEO. I hope nobody's listening. But if you are, then please keep this to yourself. And humble beginnings, do you think that's an accurate phrase to describe the start of your life?
Journey To Entrepreneurship And The Founding Of Starling Bank
Anns humble beginnings (02:48)
Yeah, it was humble. My father worked in the steelworks. My father came home from work with newspapers, Andres Arm, or Greasy from sort of doing hard work. My mum worked in the local department store. And we were happy. President Sisters? No, only child. My parents married late. My father came back from the Second World War, found his dream wife. And they had a really, really happy marriage. And school life? I went to local comprehensive school. It's a very, very new school. I was brought up in my grandmother's house. My parents, my grandmother, in a older house, an edge of a big, big council estate. And in the middle of this huge council estate, they built this new comprehensive school. And it was not a very good school. It was very new. I was one of the first children to go to university. And to be honest, there was a bit of a stigma from coming from that area and that school. And you were smart, right? Because I know you went on to do computer science. And I know people that do computer science are smart horses. So you were definitely smart, right? Yeah. I think I did most of my studying myself. The school couldn't do a lot to help, to be honest. When I had my old levels, I think everybody was quite shocked by how well I'd done. But I did most of my studying by my own textbooks and reading myself. And the house was, in an academic home. My father let's go at 14, a 14, my mother at 15. There were no books at home except holiday brochures. We lived to go on holiday. We were a very, very happy family. We had a touring caravan and we went all over Europe. But it was very unusual for a daughter of that home to be interested in studying. Why? Why I was studying or why was it unusual for her? Yeah. I think my parents didn't push me. My parents believed we're very liberal. You know, all the kids of the neighborhood sort of hung out in our house. It was a very happy home. We were very, very fortunate to have just a, probably a little bit more money than everybody living around us. But there was no emphasis on education. That was something I did. I went to the local academic bookshop. And I remember sort of taking a book off the shelf, what you do at 14, what subjects do you choose. This is all much, this is me choosing these things, not my parents. And you were choosing those subjects because you enjoyed, you intrinsically enjoyed learning or because you wanted to become super wildly successful as a mega entrepreneur. I wanted a job with a briefcase. I wanted a job in an office. I didn't actually know anybody that worked in an office. My inspiration was from television. It is very much seeing people on television and seeing that people had jobs in London, in glamorous places. We're doing interesting things. And I could do that. And my parents are very supportive. They gave me as much money as I wanted to spend in the bookshop. Yeah, and they went out and bought me a 24 volume set of "Exactly Pieder Britannica." The only problem was it was 1953 edition. So all my knowledge was somewhat outdated. But it was a great home and we did interesting things. And I did well in school and I went to university. And at that point, I'm guessing you didn't have a huge-- from what you've said, a desire to become an entrepreneur. I never thought I'd ever be an entrepreneur.
Wanting to become an entrepreneur? (07:13)
Entrepreneurship is something which is quite recent. Coming out of school, it was very much-- I wanted a job that was scientific or interesting, where I actually wanted to be a scientist. I actually wanted to be doing something with chemistry and computers, whatever. And my mom said to me, you're going to try for one normal job. Apply for a job in a bank. And I did. And the competition for the job was huge. There was thousands of people applying for a job at Lloyd's Bank to be a computer specialist, as a graduate computer specialist. And I got the job. So when I got the job, I had to take it. This is post-year diversity. Why did you choose computer science at university? And am I right in thinking? Because it's still kind of the case now that that was a very male dominated subject to choose. Yeah. It was almost all men. My father thought I could possibly be a metallologist at the Steel Works. What's a metallologist for some-- You know, studies metals. OK. Metals are made. Right. Yeah. But there was no concept of home of jobs for women or jobs for men. That didn't really exist. I came from a home where my mother was very capable. And my grandmother was very capable. So me becoming a computer scientist and going to Swans University to study where there were all men, it wasn't something that really fazed me. And you go off to university, you study computer science.
Decades in corporate jobs since leaving UEA (08:57)
You do pretty well at university, I'm guessing. Yeah, OK. Yeah, you did great, I'm sure. And then you get this job at Lloyd's Bank in the graduate program. And you're there for how long? Four and a half years. I did four and a half years before I quit. Oh, really? Is that a four and a half year thing going on? Right. So I was four and a half years at Lloyd's Bank. Great job. So did the branch thing, did all the jobs. And then my first boss told me, you better tone down your aspirations, otherwise you'd get very, very frustrated. Ooh. Ooh. And that didn't work with me. I was really, really determined that I was going to get on. So I did four and a half years at Lloyd's Bank. I did five years of standard chartered bank. I did three and a half years of Pricewaterhouse, studying banks and advising banks. And I went to UBS in the city and then out to Switzerland. Five years out in Switzerland, working for a big bank. Joined a big insurance company, worked all over the world, worked in Chicago a bit, and then joined a bank in Amsterdam, Abin Amro, worked in all sorts of places from Kazakhstan to Ubecistan to all the places around the world. I got quit again. Spent some time in FinTech before going into Alad Irish banks as chief operating officer. So that stint across all of those different banks that you worked in, across all of these different territories, how long was that in total? Ooh. 30 on years. So I did-- yeah. I started in 1981, and I quit to become an entrepreneur in 2014. That's very atypical. Oh, yeah. It's very, very unusual. I've also done different things in the jobs. I keep meeting people. And people go, I know an abode, and she worked in insurance. And I go, that's me? And they go, no, no, no, no. So there's the lamboating.
Leaving the corporate world in her 50's to be an entrepreneur (11:16)
And she worked in-- she was a computer scientist. She did computing things. That's me. So I've had a long career doing lots of different things in different companies. But I was a corporate person. When I quit to become an entrepreneur, that was something I'd never done. And did you consciously make the decision that I don't want to do the corporate life stuff anymore? I want to start my own business and give it a shot. And when you did that, what age were you? 54. At 54 years old, you decide that you want to go it alone and give up all of that corporate stuff. And all the perks, so important, you can say perks. All the perks, the stability, the security of the corporate world. And-- Yeah, when I was getting up every morning thinking, somebody has to do something about this banking industry. I was sort of ashamed to be a banker. I wasn't quite comfortable with it. And the banking industry was-- hadn't embraced tech. Everything was changing. The banking industry was looking backwards rather than forwards. And I started thinking, look, I've got a bit of independence now. I can do whatever I want. I really like to do my own business. And perhaps I'll start a dress shop. I quite like fashion. Plus I'll do a dress shop. And I realized I know nothing about fashion. I know a lot about banking and what I should do is start a bank. But nobody ever starts banks. Yeah, I was going to say-- No one goes from, I'll do a dress shop, maybe a bank. People don't. Yeah, I-- the only thing I knew about was banks and how banks are run. And people who start banks-- well, they don't start banks. People don't start banks. And if they do start a bank, they are probably a billionaire. And therefore, I was very different. And when I started talking to people about, I'm going to start a bank. I could see people thinking I was totally crazy. Of course. First of all, people don't start banks. And a five foot tall Welsh woman definitely doesn't start a bank. Yes. I hate to support the stereotypes. But I wouldn't start a bank. If I was a 40 year old billionaire white male, that was six foot 10, let alone a slightly shorter Welsh woman. So I just want to be-- because I really-- this is purely for my curiosity here, because I'm trying to understand how you-- because I don't have the guts. So you're 50 or 20 years old. You're currently in your corporate job. And whilst you're at the job, you start thinking about starting the bank. And at some point, you hand in your resignation. At what point did you hand in the resignation? Was it while you were still in the job and the bank had started moving? Or did you leave and then start putting in the foundations? No. I decided very quickly. I left. And within weeks, I was working in the new proposition. It's only last weekend I started unpacking the boxes. I came back from Ireland. I was in Ireland. And I decided to get my notice in, started the whole proposition, booked the removal of vans to bring me back over, and then put them in the house and immediately went out knocking on doors. It's only now I'm finding some time to unpack those boxes. Wow. How many years later? Seven years. Crikey.
How Did You Feel Emotionally When You Left Your Corporate Job? (15:09)
So you leave, you start knocking on doors. How did you feel emotionally when you leave the corporate system, you hand in your resignation, and you know you're going? But you don't have your next move solidified. You're still building that thing. They describe entrepreneurship as throwing yourself off the cliff and like building the paraglider as you fall. How did you feel emotionally at that phase? I think you have to cope with the fact that you no longer have that business card. You no longer have a title. And I thought it was going to be relatively easy to raise money for starting back. You know, sort of, yes. I raised money in a job before. I could knock on the photo doors, and they would give me the money I needed. It was incredibly difficult. I, you know, going into lots of offices, basically saying, I have this great idea, OK? It's an awesome idea. I'm going to build a bank. Like no other bank, we're going to build the technology from scratch. It's going to be really fair to customers. It's going to have a whole new way of engaging with the people that it served. And I'm going to take market share of Barclays and HSBC and Lloyd. That's all I needed some money. People would-- some people would tell me to my face that I was never going to do it. You know, the people thought they were being kind would say, no, you've never been an entrepreneur, and you've never run a bank as a CEO before. And those two things are things you can't raise money for. So it is tough. And yeah, there was a lot and lots of knocking on doors, lots of people telling me it was impossible. And in some cases, it was really hard to carry on, you know, sort of sending emails. But I was determined. And even the glimpse of people, somebody telling me something positive was enough to drive me on to the next meeting. And was there a blow at that time that felt the hardest? An email, a meeting. Yeah, I think that there was one meeting with a set of investors where I just didn't have any of the answers. You know, you've been there. You're an entrepreneur. OK. They ask you all these questions. And I didn't have any of the answers. You know, hadn't got as far as coming up with that part of the plan. And that felt, you know, that felt awful. But you pick yourself up and you figure out how you're going to find the answers. And you find the answers by asking people for help. You ask people for help that are in the industry.
Encountering Prejudice (17:58)
You ask people for help that you work with in the past. There's a stereotype that people that build technology are from Silicon Valley. They're like young white men. You know, that probably went to Harvard or something like that. You buck that trend. Yeah. When you were walking into those rooms and having those conversations, were you aware that there was a certain prejudice probably acting against you? Oh, definitely. People assume that I'm not technical. People assume that I'm not capable of coding. You know, there's code running in banks, big banks today that I wrote. People assume that you have to be from Silicon Valley. You have to be in your 20s or your 30s and look and sound a certain way to build a tech company. You don't look like me or sound like me. But I was determined to build a tech company. And that was very, very hard for people to appreciate. What was the driving force that spurred you on, regardless of the resistance that you clearly encountered then? What was it that made you, you know, I'm going to keep going? I'm going to carry on knocking. I think that at that time, I was talking to venture capitalists and investors about this concept of a new bank. Yeah, it is possible to build a new bank. It is possible to be a bank that actually has a lower cost base, has a different way of relating to customers. It is possible to do this. I kept hearing those same statements replayed in different ways to different routes. You know, occasionally I go on to a VC website from Silicon Valley and somebody would say roughly the same thing. There weren't any new banks at that stage. There wasn't anybody else doing it. But I felt that there was, whether it was an echo chamber, whether there was here in my own ideas back to me, or other people are thinking the same way. I felt I was on to something. I felt that it was possible for people to create and organizations that are going to change things. And you'd never done it before. So would you describe yourself as someone that has a high level of self belief at that point? I've managed to pull off things throughout my career where people thought I couldn't go to the next stage. Throughout my career, people have looked at me and thought, "Yeah, okay, you should probably get one promotion. "You won't get any more." Those people were normally, well, working in my department a few years later. So I've always managed to go one step beyond, or a couple of steps beyond what people expected. When I started this venture, I was surrounded by people who knew how this new world worked. They knew how venture capital worked. They knew how you behaved, how you talked, how you pitched your ideas. I had to learn that. And I was... As a woman, and as somebody who'd come from the corporate world, I was not used to overselling my ideas. One of the things about starlings, the whole journey is that we tend to over-deliver, because deep down, you tend to underplay your ideas or underplay your success. And therefore, you know, starlings consistently over-delivered and surprised people over the years. Is that a fair, typical, stereotypical, or typical feminine quality? This idea of, because people talk a lot about the reason why some of the reason why women in business struggle to get promotions is they're less likely to equate and oversell themselves and demand promotions in the same way that men do. So I'm wondering that conservatism and that over-delivering, but not over-promising, is something that's quite typical of women?
Why did you learn to sell ideas? (22:14)
Yeah, I think it's a question of, it's a very, very difficult balance. If you come over as arrogant, if you come over as demanding, you're not likeable. If you're too soft and to underplay what you have or what you're doing, you're too soft, you know, instead of you can't get it right. But I had to learn how to sell the ideas and it took years. It's interesting. I don't like to dwell too much on gender differences, but I think I'm asking that question as well, because I remember a VC friend of mine, and also a guy called, I think it was Chamath, but a guy called Chamath, who's one of the big investors, and he says that the female-founded businesses in his portfolio always have, when Kevin O'Leary as well from Shark Tank, he said the same thing. He said his female founders under-promising over-deliver consistently. Like, he said, when I looked at all of my portfolio companies, I think he's got 40 or 50, the female-led businesses were outperforming significantly because they were under-promising and over-delivering. There's a big announcement that's just come out today, in fact. If you're listening to this, it would have been about two weeks ago. You all have now released their new flavours, and thankfully I can now talk about them. They've released a flavour which I think might now be my best flavour. Everybody's been asking for the sort of the caffeine, the caffeinated version of Hjord. They've released an iced coffee caramel flavour, which is amazing. I've tried that. They've released a salted caramel flavour. If you know me, you know that's my favourite flavour in the world. But surprisingly, the flavour which I think might be my new favourite is the cinnamon swirl. I know it sounds strange, right? I never would have asked for that, but the truth of life is that sometimes the things you didn't know you wanted are the things you needed the most. And for me, pure cinnamon swirl flavour I think is my favourite flavour now. Very random, but try it. Delicious. Honestly delicious. And are nutritionally complete.
What was your hiring process for Starling Bank? (24:29)
Win, win, win, win, win, win, win. So hiring those first few people, Starling Bank, what was that process like? And really sort of laying the foundations of that business? Well, it was all about phoning up people I knew, explaining what I was going to do, and the idea, and really working with every organisation I knew, trying to get favours. The traditional venture capital route wasn't open to me. Actually going to VCs and saying, "Can I raise 50,000, 100,000, 300,000?" It wasn't open to me, because I wasn't like the other people on those schemes. I had to really work with big consultancy firms, and tell them that I had this idea to start a new bank, and they were going to miss out if they didn't back me. Unfortunately, I didn't have any money to pay them. I would pay them once I raised the money, or would they help me? And some of those big firms decided to back me. And lots of people in those firms took big personal risk, because most people in those big consulting firms thought that this was just a totally crazy idea. She wants to take on Barclays. It'll never happen. No, no, let's try it. You know, we may learn something on the way. You know, sort of, she got all these crazy ideas. You may be able to take them and sell them to other customers. You know, let's just help her. And I must admit, I hung out in their customer lounges for years. Really? Yeah. Just chilling. Yeah. Okay, interesting. So you raise money in a slightly unconventional way, considering the industry, then you start calling people that you want to hire from the banking world that you've met, or? Yeah, I've found them up. I've always been quite an unusual boss. I've always been quite different to the people that I, you know, work with and other organizations. People tend to be quite loyal to me. And I phone them up and say, yeah, I've got a great idea. We're going to start this bank.
Tom Blomfield and the origins of Starling Bank (26:48)
Do you fancy coming to work with me? And we'll raise some money, whatever. And that's how the team got together. So the, he was in the core team. Yeah. Okay. So there's, there was a couple of core teams. Okay. There was the, the first core team was the bunch that eventually went to, to found Monzo. Tom's, which you read about in the book and Tom's been here. Yeah. So that was the first cohort. Yeah. Yeah. And then Tom left. Yeah. With the team. And I started again. I started again in the exactly the same way, phoning people up and say, yep, I'm still trying to start this bank. No, please, please come and help me. So Tom in particular, Tom obviously sat here. He did the podcast, which I'm sure you've had. And he've written about Tom in the book as well. How did you come to meet Tom? I met Tom at a dinner. Right. I met Tom at a dinner in 2011, when he was working with Go Cardless. And I, I spotted him as being a very clever, funny, charismatic individual that was running a business and we kept in touch. So when you started styling, you needed it. Was it a CTO? He came on as a CTO. So I, yeah, I needed a CTO. I've been a bit of a mentor to Tom. Tom had gone to the States to work for a group, you know, we kept in touch. I'd met him at coffee once or twice. And when he was back, I mean, to the UK, I phoned him up and said, well, he contacted me, says he's back. And we, I hired him a CTO. So he hires a CTO. He then builds out the technical team. I'm guessing that's typically what he's doing. Yeah, we, you know, we started hiring developers. Yeah. Okay. And was there, because I, obviously it's well written that there was a bit of a fallout here. Yeah. Take me on that journey.
What happened between you and Tom at Monzo? (28:47)
When did, when did that, how did the relationship start? And when was there, when was there friction? Ah, it, one day Tom decides to, um, to go. Um, and fortunately, um, we were about to take funding, um, uh, which meant that the deal was going to happen. And basically at that particular point, um, the funding and the team fell apart. Um, you know, looking, looking back of what happened. You know, I, you know, Tom had a really, really tough time at Monzo. Um, I feel for him, um, perhaps that we could have stayed together as a team. And I could have done what I'm good at. And perhaps Tom could have done what he was good at. Uh, but you know, sort of, you know, that's history. Both Monzo and Starling have done really, really well. And having a bit of competition does actually lead to a probably a better industry. The Klarno's founder that came on said that about after pay as well. I, I read that there was a funding deal, um, early on, but you pulled out of the funding deal because one of the founders was involved in a crime. Yeah, it was, yeah. So you, Starling Bank was going to take funding. And you pulled out of the deal because one of the founders of the firm investing was involved in a serious crime or because Starling was involved in a serious crime. I couldn't quite know that Starling was started. You know, this was, this was, um, this was a fund we're going to take investment about from. And one of the founders of that firm didn't have the reputation that we wanted. Starling is a very, very, starting believes in something we have a mission. We believe in doing the right thing. And I think it's very, very important that we, you know, especially in those early days, we maintain and attune to our vision. And that caused a disagreement between yourself and them. No, it wasn't that. It wasn't that. There was a culture clash around a corny video I heard that was being produced. Um, I'm trying to understand what, like, because I get, I get, I understand a point where founders part ways, but typically that's, there's lots of small things that happen leading up and to that point, little points of friction or disagreements. And what were those, um, points of disagreement? I think Tom and I have much more in common than people think. Um, you know, sort of Tom and I often sit on panels now, right? So, so it's a panel of four and, you know, and they go, great idea of left Starling and Monzo on the panel. And we'll have two traditional banks in the middle, you know, Barclays and Lloyd's, whatever. And, and, and there's lots of questions. And somebody asked the question and there's going to be two answers. There's going to be one set of answers from Tom and myself. We tend to have the same view on things and then a different answer from the, from the incumbent banks. And sometimes I can see, you know, a look across the panel, catch sort of Tom's eye and he, and, you know, I answer, he answers. There's lots more we have in common. And it's a really, it's a real pity. It, you know, it ended the way it did. You know, aren't, you know, there's lots of places in the book where I talk about, um, you know, sort of, you know, Tom's intellect and, and Tom's energy. Um, it's a real pity it ended the way it did.
Were you sick of each others knee jerk reactions? (32:30)
That they came a day where you, you turned to, to Tom and you knew there was something wrong. And you, you say to him, you know, Tom is there, is there, you don't seem happy about something here. And, um, and he, he responds that he's sick of your knee jerk behavior. How did, how did that feel? What was, what was he referring to when he says sick of your knee jerk behavior? I think that, um, you know, businesses are very, very stressful. I think Tom, you know, is, is an individual that sometimes has tough times. And, you know, sort of every single conversation between founders, on the wrong day, about the wrong thing could possibly lead to that sort of breakup. But, um, wow, what a story, eh? How would you describe the differences in your personalities? Because it seems like that's probably at the heart of the clash. I don't think different personalities lead the clashes. Interesting. I think that people who have different personalities working together can create great businesses. Um, I think Tom, you know, went on, you know, to, to, you know, sort of lead a great group at Monso. And, you know, and I've listened to his, the show, um, where he talked to you. And he had a tough time. When you heard that, how did you feel about the way that the events were recounted?
What was your opinion of Starling at this point? (34:10)
Be honest with me. I want to know that you're- Yeah, it's a very, very difficult, very difficult question to answer. Um, I chose Tom as a CTO. Um, I still believe he is an extremely talented individual. And he has, you know, grown a great business. Of course, Starling is a better business. Um, but isn't it great that what happened, you know, the story of, you know, it's a, yeah, you know, two individuals come across each other. Um, they meet, you know, sort of one decides to start a bank, high as the other person. Um, there's a falling out. Both businesses going on to really change things. Um, well, it's, it's the story of digital banking in the UK. I keep wondering if, you know, if that story never happened, would we've all got so much, you know, sort of inches in the press, to be honest? It was quite a story. How did you feel when you heard the way that he recounted the events? You, you're listening to it. It's coming through your ears and you're thinking. It's the first time I heard it, but I knew that that story was being retold in places where I couldn't hear it. Um, but I'm quite philosophical about this. We all see the world and a story in different ways. And yeah, you know, it's a, it's, it's another piece in the story of the Starling Monzo journey. And at this time when you and Tom are having a fallout, um, within Starling, and you're, you've realized, I guess that, you know, you have different ideas and perspectives about how things should be done and where they should be going. You hold a crisis meeting, you come together. Um, I guess you have those meetings, I guess, because you're trying to discuss a way, a way through, a way to a positive outcome. I think at some point you realize that there's not going to be a positive outcome and one of you's going to have to leave and then you offer up your resignation. Yeah. So you offered to, to, to quit Starling bank. Yeah. I, you know, and that's, you've talked about, you know, how women act differently to men. I was prepared to give up Starling. I was prepared to give up my part in Starling for the good of Starling. And that was a very stupid thing to do. Why? Because it was my business. It was my idea. Um, I'd got the business to where it was, but I was volunteering to give up my role in Starling because I wanted Starling to succeed. Tom, I think, didn't think I was capable. Somebody that, like me, that has spent so many years in corporate life, that I wasn't capable of delivering and building a big tech company. And I built a big tech company. Um, yeah. So he didn't have that faith in me, but I realized that I could do it. And made it happen. Specifically in those days, you decide that you're going to step away for the great, to good of the business. Adorable thing to do, some would say. Um, it appears that it's one of the decisions you regret in hindsight, getting to that place. I was just gauging by your reaction. Then it seems like it's something where you look back and think, why did I? Yeah, I should never have volunteered to resign.
Challenges And Contemplation About Quitting Starling
Why Anne volounteered to quit Starling (37:57)
I should never have volunteered to go. Um, that was me saying that the survival of Starling was, was more important than me. And both things are important. My part in Starling and the survival of Starling. And what was it that changed your mind? Well, I think as I write in the book, I sort of retreated. I went to a coffee shop, went to Starbucks and met a guy that I'd seen in Starbucks every Sunday for the, you know, for the previous 10 years. And, you know, he's a tech entrepreneur. And he came to me and he sat opposite me and he said, you know, charted about things. And I said that I'd stepped away from Starling because that was the only way the business would succeed. And he said to me, what are you going to do next? And I said, I'm probably going to start another bank. And he said, well, you don't have to start another bank. You can go back in and, and take Starling back. And I realized that I'd made a mistake that I needed, you know, I desperately wanted to create Starling. I desperately wanted to lead Starling. And I had to take Starling back. And I literally, literally ran out of the coffee shop. And I can see, I can see, I can see the street in front of me now. And I got into the car, drove into London. And, and took Starling back. And what did that mean taking it back? It meant that I had to be, you know, totally, I had to talk to people and say that I had a vision of creating something which is an organization that does things in a right sort of way. You know, I'd been a banker for 30 odd years and I was ashamed to be a banker. And this idea of Starling was to do things my way. And I really wanted to lead the organization to where it is at the moment. So I had to make that clear. And I took back Starling. But the consequence was that I was on my own. I was on my own in the office. So you walk back in the office and say to the team, I say to Tom, that you're withdrawing your resignation? No, by then it refused to accept my resignation. Because it's a long story. I do want to go into all the details. We got a lot of time. But they refused to accept it because, you know, of certain things.
Anne's home getting burgled while she was thinking about quitting Starling (40:54)
So I stepped in and took control of Starling. And so I heard around this time you'd also been burgled at home. And this kind of exacerbated, I think, some of the emotional components of decision making. It's inaccurate. Yeah. So, you know, this, you know, this happened about the time of something burglaries. And, you know, and why, you know, why that's in the book is that we, you know, we CEOs, we leaders of businesses, we're entrepreneurs, but we're also human. And a burglary is quite personal. And how did that impact you and your decision making around that time? That bad. I think it was tough around that time. But all issues and all things you do in a business are complex. And that was an added complication at that time. Just adds more to the mind and more things to think about and makes you feel a little bit unstable, I guess, though. So, some bugling your home, I think has that kind of psychological destabilization. While you were away, you'd handed in your notice at Starling and you'd left the office. While you were away, I guess Tom's running the office, per se. Is that accurate? And, you know, the way that it's framed in press is that there's some kind of like coup that's gone on where, you know, control of the company has been seized from you in like a kind of low key hostile manner. Is that at all accurate? I think you have to read the book. Yeah. You know, there's a, you know, I, the book is the story of what happened. There were lots of notes and emails taken at the time. And this was all written from my notes and emails written at the time. And I think it's up to the readers to decide, you know, what really went on.
Annes Story About Starling Bank Bank Failing (42:58)
And you go in and you say, you know, I'm not going to resign. I want to leave this company. I've got a vision for the company in its future. And that means that you have to fire Tom. Essentially, that's the decision you make. You say, I'm the CEO still of Starling Bank. So I'm going to, I'm going to let you go. And I'm going to rebuild my own team. And the way that, you know, when Tom's that here and spoke to me, he says that you fired the whole team. Is that accurate? Okay. The story is that we lost the funding. You can't, if you can't pay people, it's very unfair to let them work. We were very, very honest with the people that unless we could raise funding, there weren't going to be any jobs. And I think it's documented extremely well in the book about all the ins and outs. And it's quite a story. And so you lose funding because Tom's quitting. And obviously when people are investing companies, they're investing in teams and peoples. And CTO is a critical role in the person that's building the technology. So that's why the funding goes through it. And you realize at this point, I've got to basically build this thing back from scratch. I'm guessing you had an inclination that there was a greater allegiance towards Tom with the existing cohort of people. No, not really. No. No. Okay. It was more just, you basically weren't going to be able to pay for them because the funding had been pulled. Yeah. So that day, so you, you know, Tom leaves, the team are, are let go as well. And they go with Tom. And, you know, that starts the story of Monzo. And as he's described it, they start their own bank. And that's what we now call as Monzo that day after you walk into the office. So I'm guessing, I don't know whether it's a physical officer or a metaphorical, but you walk in, you're alone pretty much. Is there anyone else in the room? Is there anyone else installing as an employee at this point? That, that's me. Just you. And how did that feel going from, you know, the climb, climb, we're building something here to ground zero? I'm very good at picking myself up. You know, sort of at that particular point, I was feeling, well, I haven't got the responsibility now of, of having to raise money to pay these people. I can take my time now to find a new investor or I can build a new team. And it didn't take long before I was, well, is it gentlemen called Alan Chandler? Frondyls. Yeah, who turned up two days later and, at your office. And stayed, and stayed working for no salary at all for nearly, yeah. What was, what had you built at that point in terms of on the day when Tom and the new Monzo crowd had left? What had you actually achieved as a company? What was their technology? Was there? No, nothing from the technology side have been really done. We had a banking application. So when you, when you apply for a bank, you have to have a banking application. Yeah. And it was in boxes. So, you know, so we had a banking application. We didn't really have much tech. Okay. So your friend comes in, he offers to do the P45s for the stuff that I've just left, and just to sort of give you a hand.
Brittish People Are The Ultimate Underdogs (46:18)
And then you start hiring again. A lot of people would quit at that point. And a lot of people would give up. That's a pretty significant blow as far as I'm concerned. How many people had left in total? 16. 16 people. That's a pretty significant blow to, you know, might be time to go back to the corporate world now. Did that not crush your mind? No, really. I got to a state of having, almost having a banking license. I had the idea. I'd learned a lot. I knew what we needed to do. It didn't take me long, and I was starting again. You say that like it's so easy. Like it's just so effortless. And I know it's not. It was humiliating. Okay. It was humiliating reading in the press, what had happened. Because the story has been told in the press, and the story has been told now, and not actually what happened. But, you know, that's history. You got to get on, and you got to sort things out, and you got to move on. And I was, yeah. I was up for it. I was going to do it again. You seem reluctant to correct false stories here. That's clearly a decision you've made. Yeah, I think that what I don't want to get into is, he said that, you know, she said this. You know, I've written a book, which is, you know, which is a very accurate account of what happened. And my side of the story, and people allowed to have different sides of the same story. That's okay. But I wanted to tell my story. Your friend that stopped by the office. Yeah. And gave you a hand. How emotionally important was that? And how grateful are you to them? I will be forever, ever grateful to Alan. I think that the one person to come in and be somebody who said, "Yep, this happened, but you know, you're going to start again. That's fine." And I think one of these symbolic things that happened was that, in the early weeks, you know, when they left, you know, Tom and the team had left all their debris behind, you know, sort of, and they had a hell of a lot of debris. I went out one day to do some fundraising. And when I came back, Alan had collected all the mugs and the odd socks and, you know, all the various medications they were all taking. And it cleared it all up and thrown it all away. And the office was clear of the old world. And we could start again. And that was quite symbolic. And yeah, it was, I sometimes think, if Alan had not come in, you know, would it have been so easy? And I'll never know, but that was the start of a new team. And, you know, that team, you know, the, you know, the A team, the team that left with the B team. There she is. Was, you know, we attracted people that were sort out, darling, you know, this is woman is going to build a bank and she's going to do all these things. And they turned up and they were awesome.
Annes Contemplation Before Starting Again (49:58)
Okay. So the team have left. Alan's cleaned out the office. Is there, is there not a moment in you where you, you consider packing it in? Is there not a moment where you think, you know what, this is. April the 1st. April the 1st. That's when, you know, that's when I accidentally had an email from the team that left. And that, that was difficult. You accidentally had an email. You weren't meant to be copied on it? I don't know. I never know whether I was meant to be copied on it or not. But they were making fun of me. And I thought, well, is that the day I'm going to give up? But I said, nope. You know, and I went back in the office the following day and carried on. Making fun of you in terms of your management skills, your something you've done or said or very personal things. No, it's a question of, you know, you have to read the book about it, but there was a prank about them being arrested. But you have to read the story to understand the, the, the nuance. But that was the only day that I thought, you know, can I carry on? And that lasted an hour. But I was absolutely determined. Were you upset reading that email? I was panicking about them. I was worried about them.
Did there lose put a fire in your belly? (51:29)
Why? Um, I was worried about the fact that they could be in real trouble. And yeah, I, I hired these people. They were friends for years. Uh, the, and I like them. You can't suddenly, um, you can't suddenly cut off all connection with people that you worked with, even though this thing had happened to me. Did it put a fire in your belly? That wasn't there before, because, you know, events like that can, they can kind of send you one or two ways. Oh, and they can kind of send you, I guess they can also send you both ways at the same time, but they typically, if we're just kind of broad strokes, they can, they can devastate you to the point where you, you know, don't get out of bed, or they can motivate you to the point that you work two times as hard. Nothing was going to stop Starlings. It's succeeding after that happened. So it's the, it's the work price is hard. Yeah. And did you, did you really, did you, were there moments like way, you know, you, what you just put that extra effort in and you, you know, you became a little bit more determined because of that, like moments you can think of, because I know that I'm a human being and I don't care. If I was in that situation, I swear to God, I'd have a picture of their face on the wall. My team would be hearing about it every five seconds. That's the guy I am, like it or not. Don't care. I do that about all the competition we have. I, it motivates me and it is what it is. You don't have to like me. So I'm asking the question like, did it, did they become a, a real significant competitive driving force in your life? Okay. As a woman, it can't be bitter. Okay. You can't show that bitterness. Why? You can't, you have to be, you know, you have to internally put your energies into, into Starling. Um, you know, Starling, Starling has succeeded. Starling is a successful business. Um, that I'm terribly proud of. And yes, when I, I take a lot of inspiration from other people's books and whatever. Most, most businesses have had a near death moment. It, it, it, it happens so often that the best businesses, the best entrepreneurs, have had times when they lost it. They almost lost it, but they recovered. This was mine. And, uh, it played out very publicly. And, um, I learned a lot from it. And I decided to continue. And I think Starling and me are better for it.
Pivotal Moments And Raising Funds
Did you re-evaluate your team in year two? (54:24)
When you started to rehire the new team, Yeah. I'm guessing you made different hiring decisions in terms of, because of what had happened. Did it influence the type of people that you brought into the business for their chapter two? Not necessarily. I think that, yeah, I didn't set out to get, um, a different set of personalities. I could focus on getting more qualified people and higher caliber people. Because I had a better business proposition. It was a year in 18 months in, you know, it wasn't a blank sheet of paper. It was a fully formed proposition, but it almost raised money, where we had an application for the banking license that was almost fully formed. So it was less risk for those people coming in. And I also had spent 18 months figuring this thing out. I was better at selling the idea. So the second time around, I could bring in a, you know, I don't want this to be derogatory on, you know, Tom or whatever. I hired a, I hire caliber, more appropriate set of people for the problem we had to solve. Okay. Yeah. Yeah. I think that's, I think that's a natural thing. I think, I think even in, you know, Monzo's business, I'm pretty sure when I had the conversation with Tom, he, he speaks about hiring and, you know, hiring a different caliber of person to meet an evolving business challenge, especially, I know, I know in particular Monzo's case, they did start bringing in people from like the banking world and stuff like that. And even in my business, I talk a lot about how we did the exact same thing. I at the very start didn't quite know the caliber of talent that I needed or the, you know, their experience. And in year three of my business, I realized that the first one or two years of hires that I'd made weren't adequately experienced in solving the problem I had to solve. And also the type and scale of problem you have to solve evolves, right? When you're one, two years old, it's a different set of problems to when you're like a thousand employees, right? Yeah. So that makes perfect sense.
Second biggest pivotal moment... (56:46)
Pivotal moments then. So chapter two of Starling, funding. Yep. What was the pivotal moment with getting the money in the door? It was very, very difficult. Again. Yeah. It was for two years in, I was approached by a family office. And I wouldn't return the calls, okay? You know, I was absolutely determined that I was going to have a VC. These people I knew, it's going to be these well-known firms, or my investment bankers were going to find me this sort of investor. But I was approached by a family office that had seen an article about Tom in Bloomberg and had investigated what's going on in the new bank scene in the UK and wanted to talk to me. And I started conversations with them. And it took a while for me to actually engage with them. I'd never heard of them. And I wasn't going to talk to people I didn't know. Anyway, I ended up getting on a plane to the Bahamas. Oh, that's when you know they're rich. It was a yacht, wasn't it? It was a yacht. And spent three days being interrogated by a gentleman called Harold McPike, who's an algorithmic trader. And he asked me the most complex questions that anybody had ever asked. He was really into the detail. And yes, at the Bahamas 4, I joined him on his yacht. And I think... How big was this yacht? It was a big yacht. More of a ship. It was a big yacht. And yeah, he asked me lots and lots of questions about me, about the business. And he was very, very detailed. And at 11.15 in the evening, he offered me 48 million pounds for 66% of the company.
Anne Tells Her Banker to Get Stuffed & Other Decisions (58:58)
66%. I read that he said, he said something to you like. I'm not going to give you the 3 million. I was trying to raise 3 million. Okay. I was trying to raise 3 million. That's all I needed was 3 million to get to getting the banking license. So the idea was to raise 3 million and then 15 million and 30 million. I only wanted the 3 million. I hadn't raised a penny. The only money that had gone into the business was my money. So it was impossible to raise money. And he said, yeah. So he said, no, I'm not going to give you 3 million. I'm going to give you 48. Christ, that's like Chris Tarrant from the Ultimate Millionaire. That's mad. 40. And how did you feel? So there's two real things here. That's a huge amount of money, but that's also 66% of your business. Tough. And at that particular point, you know, that all the other things that you're working on, all the other leads are going to go. You may have 40, 50 different leads you're working on. You're going to accept this offer and sort of somebody else now controls the company. But with 48 million, you have a situation where you can build the best tech in the world. So, you know, I've been doing this for two years and it was really difficult. And I had somebody who really understood what I was going to do. It was super intelligent that actually believed in my conviction I could do this. But I was having to give up 66%. But it would mean that I could build something that nobody else had ever built. I mean, in that moment, he's valuing what is, and correct me if I'm wrong here, essentially an idea. Yeah. It was a 16-page deck. He's valuing a 16-page deck at 72 million. How long did you have to think about that decision? Probably about 30 seconds. And how do you feel about it? Because a lot of people, they look back on those fundraising decisions. It seems that every startup entrepreneur regrets how they value their business at the start. Because they always, especially when it becomes a multi-billion dollar company, they feel like they sold themselves short. How do you feel about it? He's not listening. Too busy in the Bahamas on this massive yacht. I think that it is more and more important to actually create this vision. I was so excited that I could now start.
How did it feel to Get Funded? (01:01:54)
And we eventually signed the deal on the 21st of December and submitted the banking license in the 22nd. Of December. It was finally, we could start. It was hugely exciting. Did you celebrate? Well, I couldn't actually celebrate, but we didn't actually have a term sheet for another three days. So it was in the Saturday night. I was flying back and I had the term sheet an hour before picking up the flight. But once you'd signed the term sheet, it was all signed off. You never celebrate term sheets. You celebrate getting the money in the bank. When the money came in the bank, did you celebrate? Yeah. And how did that look? How did it look? You opened up your app, Barclays, whatever. 48 million. It was very exciting. It was very exciting. It was very exciting. And it allows you to do so much. Was it terrifying as well? Was it scary? So a lot of responsibilities, 48 million pounds of someone else's money. Yeah. And that's why entrepreneurs that take external funding are so committed to do a good job. There's a huge amount of responsibility to deliver. You can't just, you can't walk away from it. Once you got that investment, you have to deliver. It's so important.
What Does it Take to Raise 600 to 700M and Counting? (01:03:27)
And how much money have you raised in total now? 60700. 600, 700. 600, 700 million pounds. Wow. How can it done so much for her? So what have you learned about raising investment? If you were, you know, there'll be a lot of entrepreneurs listening to this, who have a lot of like unhelpful, stereotypes or thoughts about raising investment. God, some of them will think the only way to do it is like Dragon's Den. Right? What would you tell them now, having gone through this process so many times? Take the money. Okay. So there's a huge amount of, a huge amount of written about, you know, you need to go for these sort of investors, of those sort of investors and you need to pick your investor or whatever. The vast majority of people can't pick where the investment's coming from. You know, only 1% of venture capital funding goes to women founders. Right. So, you know, if somebody offers you the money, you've got to take it. Because it comes around so, so rarely. And a lot of people worry about valuation, not relevant. You know, most businesses fail, most entrepreneurs don't get their businesses off the ground, not because they don't have good ideas, not because they're not good people, but they couldn't get the funding. And do you think it's hard to raise money? Yeah, very hard. Venture capital is tend to invest in businesses that look very, very similar. You know, if you look at, if you read Paul Graham's works. Oh, yeah. Yeah. Yeah. You know, he talks about really, that teams need to look like this and, and things are done in this sort of way. You know, I would have never got any Y Combinator VC Paul Graham funding, because I'm not that sort of entrepreneur. And a lot of investing by VCs, they're looking for carbon copies of businesses they've invested in in the past. And the really great ideas don't get that investment. And real great ideas from women founders don't get great, don't get significant investment. Interesting. But there's a lot of money out there, isn't there? Yeah. That's what I've come to learn is there is a lot of money out there. There's a lot of money out there when you're successful. Right. Starling now is a big business. 1600 people, 2.5 million accounts, doing interesting things. We have a reputation. But the fact that, you know, and occasionally, you know, they publish how much money in the UK has gone to women founders. And it's a lot of it's gone to me. So, I think we have to be very realistic that you get to a point where you're a success and people then want to invest. But the majority of the time at Starling, it's been really tough. It's been really tough. So, when you reflect on your corporate career and you contrast it and compare it to your entrepreneurial career, what was the really surprising, tough part on a personal level?
The tough part (01:06:55)
And this is really why I started this podcast, you know. The all jobs are tough. A corporate job is very tough. I think that being an entrepreneur, it's far more personal responsibility. As an entrepreneur, there's nobody in all the hiring decisions somehow ended up with you making that first hiring decision. You know, we have 1600 people, but those, you know, somewhere up in the chain, I hired one of those people, right, that made that hiring choice. Anything that goes wrong is my responsibility and all mistakes are probably down to me. So, there's a lot of personal responsibility and that responsibility gets more and more, as more and more people depend on it. But isn't it fantastic? Isn't it a wonderful buzz, isn't it? Isn't it wonderful to have a platform, really? I fundamentally believe that financial institutions lost their way and Starling is doing the right thing and somehow people have said to me that I've created the organization that I wanted to run because I quite like running organizations and I wanted to do things in a different sort of way. So, finally, I'm running the organization that I've been wanting to run for the last 35 years. And that you wished is existed as a customer? Yeah, I think that, you know, I've been very lucky. I've always had a great relationship with money. But the vast majority of people in this world have a bad relationship with money. It doesn't go well for them and, you know, they deserve a better bank. I went into banking, you know, because I wanted to do interesting things. I wanted to come to London and I wanted to be in tech. But I also wanted to do something that was respectable, worthwhile, doing the right thing by people and banks stopped doing that. And I'm much more comfortable being accountable for the organization that is Starling. And it helped you to, I guess, alleviate that taxi cab shame you referenced, where a taxi driver asks you what you do. And you don't want to say bank hard because there's so much stigma and shame around the sector. You're proud to talk about? Yeah, I'm proud of talking about what I do and what I stand for. And having a bit of a platform to nudge things in the right way. You know, I'm only a small cog in this whole world. But if I can do my bit to make things fairer in a couple of segments, you know, I should do that. And I'm enjoying doing it. You talked about the buck stopping with you. All problems are your problems or hiring decisions are ultimately lead back to you by x degrees of separation. When you're, and especially, you know, the other part is the industry you're in. It's not an easy and easy industry. Customers, you have millions of customers that are you dealing with their money, which is one of the most emotional sensitive things you can deal with with any customer. The emotional toll must be extreme. I mean, Tom sat here and it was the first window I'd had into how brutal, emotionally brutal, fintech and managing a bank could be. Managing a bank, you know, so yeah, I listened to what Tom said. And all the things that Tom said happen in all banks, right? That is what happens. But it's my job. It's what I do. It's what the people I work with do. And sometimes it's, you know, sometimes you read emails and people that have been scammed out of their life savings. You have emails and you have cases where, you know, gamblers have lost all their money. You have to deal with people who have lost their son in some tragic circumstances. We have a window on people's lives in all sorts of circumstances. And we have to be responsible. We have to be empathetic and we have to guard ourselves from the bad guys out there. What we do means that we touch people in all sorts of ways when they're most vulnerable, whether they've lost somebody, whether they have, you know, they gambled all their money away or whether they've been scammed. That's a responsibility. But it's not just me that has to take that responsibility. We have hundreds of people that talk to customers every day that see customers when things are going well and things are going badly. It takes a huge amount of energy and sometimes they're listening to calls. And it really impresses me how young people, you know, who are new to their careers, who are so empathetic, so in touch with real people and really helping them. You know, I take my hat off to them. What do you do to protect yourself mentally from the chaos of running such a big business that has such a, you know, is dealing with such a sensitive topic for people?
Personal Decisions And Insights
Mental Health (01:12:51)
How do you protect yourself from not losing your sanity? Yeah. I had a great mentor in this. My father. My father was brought up in a home where his father was in the First World War and he came back from the First World War with what you now call post-traumatic stress syndrome. And they didn't call it that then. They called it, you know, shell shock. And he was brought up in that home where his father had good days and bad days and things were quite fragile. But my father had a great way of talking about feelings and emotions and what you do to talk yourself up and how you make yourself happy. And we had a home where we talked about this and how you counted your blessings. We weren't religious at all. But how you took energy from what's going right rather than what's going wrong. And he was a great mentor. He taught me this. And I think the dedication in my book is all about, you know, thanking my parents for teaching me that happiness is something that you can cultivate and treasure because not everybody has it. And I think when I am in a sort of situation where things are tough, you can do things to change the chatter in your head to realize that you're not the center of attention. You know, sometimes, no, it's not about me. You know, not everybody's looking at me. Everybody's looking at their own life and thinking about their own problems. And I am very, very fortunate. I have a huge number of things that are going right for me. And I have the privilege of running, starting. And it is a privilege. And there's lots of things going wrong and lots of pressures on me. But it's a great privilege to have. So do you see that as a, you're, you're sort of coping mechanism. There is a almost like a, almost like a childhood disposition that was taught to you. Like it's a perspective that kind of defaults to optimism, seeing the glasses are full, defaulting to gratitude. That's kind of acted as a protective. Yeah, I think it is. I'm still quite excited by it all. Right. So coming here today, I was excited. But this is, this is something which is, look, I am ever so fortunate to be a person who's doing what I'm doing to talk into you. That's going to be broadcast. This is exciting. When I come back into London, you know, I'm driving back into London late at night. And, you know, and I'm going through the city. I'm, I'm still excited. I'm like a kid that's coming to London for the first time. This is an exciting thing to do. I'm, yeah, I'm loving it all. Mm. Such a strange question to ask, but, um, that is somewhat unusual. It feels, it feels like, well, is it? Maybe it's just because the conversation I had previously was so, you know, like the red phone by the bed, Tom described, you know, I have a phone by the bed and it never leaves the, the, yeah, the phone is by the bed all the time. And that's the, like the emergency call me if there's a crisis phone. Yeah. But that's the job I get paid for. But there's a huge, there's a huge amount of things that come with this job. You know, I, you know, I appear in front of the Treasury Select Committee and get grilled. I, you know, I have this sort of grilling from you. I, I, I, I can talk to interesting people. I have the opportunity of building something I've always wanted. That's a huge, huge privilege. Hmm. I really think that's a really underestimated defense mechanism against life is if your default position is to view the, you know, to count your blessings, as you say, and view the half as glass full, then it's, it's harder to slip into the trap of, um, my expectations are being unmet because of the difficulties of my life. And a lot of what we've discovered from this, talking to guests on this podcast, when your expectations of how the world is meant to be going, go and met, then you slip away into unhappiness and misery. And yeah, you seem to have a default to gratitude, essentially, which is causing a very mentally sort of protective. Have you ever been to therapy? Have you ever had like any professional support in that regard? No. I read a lot. I read, um, I read, I read hundreds of books. I read, you know, I read every self-help book I get my hands on.
Different Personal Decisions (Kids and Relationships) for Successful Women (01:18:12)
I read every single banking strategy book. I've always done it. I, I love understanding things. The, the personal. So this is interesting. One of the things that, um, you said, well, kind of two points is that you don't have work, life balance. It's all, it's just all work. Yeah. When people hear that, they go, they sympathy, like, you know, they think, they think you're like, no, like, I feel a similar way to, to some degree. Maybe it's changed recently, but I, that was my life. And I don't want sympathy for it because I actually love what I'm doing every day. But then, you know, I read in your story and there's sort of connected points there where you say, um, about how women are sort of conditioned in our society to think happiness equals having 17 kids in our husband and how you would like to do, you know, buck that narrative. Can you talk to me about that? So like the personal, I don't want to call it sacrifice because that's the loss of something, but the personal balance you have in your life and also, you know, you talk openly about not having kids. Yeah. Look, you know, sort of, um, you know, the right man never came along. It wasn't something that I decided against, but there was never any assumption in the family home that I would get married or whatever, but the right man never came along. And as far as children, I never made the decision not to have children, just that, um, sort of, I was busy and then it was too late. But I think that people compare, um, to quite an idyllic state of, you know, marriage and two children and all living in a wonderful home and, you know, sort of everything being, um, fantasized life of a family. Um, majority of families are not like that. Um, I have, I am really, really happy that I've made the right decisions. And yes, it's a, I get asked about it occasionally and brave people ask about it. You know, people who are not brave, trying to go round it. Um, yeah, you know, but one day, Prase, they won't marry. You never know, you know, the right man may come along. Um, it's unlikely to happen with children. I always struggled in when I was running my business to have any kind of relationship with anybody. I was a total halo because I was obsessed. As you say, like, work, life balance, it was just all work. I was in the office sat in Sunday and I found it incredibly hard to find someone that understood the peculiarity of my life dynamic. It was only upon leaving that business that I actually managed to like, you know, like, pickle something together, like higgle, do you know, put some pieces together, which is probably resembles a relationship now, but, um, it's very difficult finding a man who's prepared to listen to me going on about my career for three hours. Hmm. We've had, it's not, no, we've had a lot of guests come here that are, you know, female founders that have said a very similar thing.
Emasculating Men (01:21:21)
Yeah. And also, an interesting narrative, which I want to talk about, which is like, men can be emasculated. Is this true? I'd, you know, Chrissy came here and she's a successful fan and she said that, yeah, like, men can be emasculated by the success of a woman if she's like, bringing home the bacon, or if she's, you know, the career driven one. Do you find this to be true? Well, like, you know, I had a lot of coaching from friends before going out on a date and going, for goodness again, don't ask for the bill. Okay. For goodness again, don't, you know, don't leave the table to answer a call. Right. So, good. Yeah. But I got a really, really good deal coming up. No, no, no. This is how it works. And okay, you're going to date and you've been 10. He's, he's, he's awesome. And you don't go off and onto your phone. And you don't try and pay the bill. Okay. That's how it works. That's how it works for most people. But, you know, sometimes work is more important. Wow. Oh, good. And I read some as well that you said that you could write a separate book about your dating. Yeah. Yeah. Dating experiences. Yeah, I've done a lot of that. Yeah. I've done a lot of dating. Doesn't work. Doesn't work. Doesn't work. And you, you pinpoint the way that you are in terms of your, like your focuses, your ambitions, your, you know, all of that stuff as making it difficult. That's the thing that makes it difficult. Look, if I put a lot of effort into it, I would have probably made something work. The trouble is I put a lot of effort into my job and my career. And I probably get a huge amount of satisfaction about with that. And it's sort of taken priority. But that's great. You know, you know, I've, I've got a great job. You know, I'm doing this sort of stuff. Yeah. You know, what could be better, you know, sort of being in the situation where you can talk about things and you have success. Yeah. It's good. As you reflect back on, you know, the, the, the, the, and that started her career as an entrepreneur.
Sonali Would Say This to Her Younger Self (01:23:45)
And the naivety that she must have undoubtedly had going, you know, what would you, what was, this is the, some of the keys, sort of pieces of advice you would impart on her and say, I just wish you knew this and be careful of this and I think it's the question that people always give you the wrong sort of advice. What I, what I caution about is that there's a lot of people out there giving bad advice. Uh, because when you ask somebody about what you should do or how you raise fundraising or, you know, whatever you do about your business, they haven't got a good idea. So they give you something because they feel as they can't say, I don't know. So be cautious of those mentors that actually don't know anything. And there's so many people who have, you know, the, the VC world is full of people who are, you know, you know, finish their careers that are wandering around VC land, trying to tell you what things work and how things work. A lot of that is absolute rubbish and you have to just stop it. Um, one of the biggest lessons I learned is a lot of the things that I knew, what I was absolutely 100% certain of was actually wrong. Right. So forget about it. The world's move on. Be relevant. And do you want to sell Starling Bank? What's the plan? Do you want to, you know, you want to list it on the stock exchange? Do you want a big incumbent bank to come along and buy the company so you can sell off to the Bahamas with that guy on the boat or? No, I think that would probably list in a couple of years time. Um, you know, I wanted to be, I want to be important. I want Starling to be something that changes financial services forever. I've enjoyed myself. You know, I'm, I'm not ready to quit. This is, I'm on a roll.
Starling - Truly Remarakable (01:25:53)
And you must have had some offers, right? Because, you know, a couple of people coming along saying, Brown envelope, 100 ml. See you later. No? It's, look at, it's a unique opportunity. You know, imagine, put yourself in my shoes. 1981, I came to London to start my career in banking. And we rocked up at Lloyd's Bank as a graduate trainee nowadays, you know, I'm, I'm running an important bank in the UK. And I founded this bank and it's much better than the incumbent banks and it's at start of it's sort of 300 years rather than the end of it. Yeah, it's incredibly exciting. Um, yeah, I have to pinch myself. It's really happening. Yeah, you know, it's, it's truly remarkable and you're right. I did give you a grilling there a bit on a lot of the key points because there is, you know, there is such a interesting banking narrative, banking war narrative going on in the fintech space at the moment. And, but you know, the overarching thing is just, you know, I find your story to be just so incredible. And I find it to like genuinely unbelievable because you say it in such an effortless way. You say you talk about these events and even the fundraising stuff and, you know, the stereotypes of being a female founder that doesn't fit the existing stereotypes of tech, bros out in Silicon Valley that are all like 21 from Harvard in their all dropouts and to persevere against it all, I suspect is significantly maybe 10x harder than you actually make out because like I know how hard it is anyway. But then when the the deck is stacked against you and the ways that I know it is because I understand stereotypes and the climate and especially in the banking world, like what kind of lunatic starts a bank, right? And I was fortunate enough to be slightly privy to some of the early processes of like getting a banking application because we had a lot of fintech startups, including banks like Monza approached us very early and asked us to help with the marketing. So, and then when I was sitting in the rooms maybe five, six years ago, they're all talking about eventually getting their banking licenses or something. And that corner was turned eventually, but it's just remarkable and it's unbelievable. And there's very few entrepreneurs in the UK or really anywhere in the world that I've encountered that really managed to take on a really stubborn incumbent as it relates to the banking industry here, Spotify is one of the examples I sometimes think of because there was no way you could move move away the rights and the music rights and move it to digital and then charge people. Like so that again I consider Daniel Act to be a lunatic, but yeah, incredible. Yeah, I consider this to be the same. So yeah, thank you for the inspiration. Thank you for the courage and I think your story is one of, you know, it's one in, you know, 100 million. I do have one request though. And this is where the diary comes in. Okay. Okay. So, so what we do with all of our guests when they come on the show is they all write a question in the diary for the next guest.
Do You Really Understand the Purpose of Your Life Here on Earth (01:29:05)
Right. So our last guest wrote a question for you. Do you really understand the purpose of your life here on earth? No, I don't. I think that I've nobody ever sort of discovers their purpose until probably too late. And I think thinking about that question too hard is probably too difficult. I think the purpose of your life will only be discovered once it's too late. You don't think it's what you're doing now? Would you suspect I think I'm on the start of a journey rather than the end. I think I want to do more than just make Starling the best bank in the world. I think Starling will do its bit to help people with a financial health. But I think it's also important to nudge society in the right direction. And I can do that with a platform of Starling. Nudging society in the right direction in terms of what? Fairness. Fairness, equality. Yes. I think the world is very unfair in lots of different ways. And it's not just fair between countries. There's very, very, you know, different people have different experiences with this life. You know, I have been extremely fortunate. But the girl growing up next door, I probably had a very, very different life to me. And by an accident of birth, we experience a very, very different life. I'm getting Prime Minister vibes.
Thoughts On Politics
Have No Intention of Becoming a Politician (01:31:08)
I have no intention of becoming a politician. It's far too hard. Okay. But you can, as you say, refer to Starling as a platform and that's, you know, being able to influence the electorate is equally important as being the puppet in charge. So I'm going to ask you to write a question in the book. Thank you so much for coming to this. Thank you very much. You invited me. I really enjoyed it. Thank you very much.