This month’s book review is ‘Banking On It – How I Disrupted an Industry’ by Anne Boden, who founded Starling Bank.
Starling Bank is a digital challenger bank for both personal and business customers with a real emphasis on customer service and designing the whole business processes around that customer proposition. They were the first digital bank to move into profitability in late 2020.
This book is a really good read which in places is more like a thriller which you can’t put down. I read it in just a few days.
It is a story of everything that could go wrong, does go wrong and just when you think, great…. they’ve made it now and all their troubles are over, there is a massive twist, and everything goes horribly wrong again.
At one point, Boden had written her resignation letter, and was leaving behind her investment, all her hard work and effort and the considerable achievements to date. It was only down to a chance meeting in a coffee shop with an old contact, that she realised she needed to fight back and rid of her business of treacherous persons and partners. She did indeed fight back that very day and fired the whole team and was left in her words as the ‘last woman standing’ to start over again.
She talks of several ‘near-death experiences’ for the business and I think Starling pretty much had one of each possible type during its inception.
It is a classic story of persistence and overcoming challenges for an entrepreneur. Some of these challenges included:
– Investors shunned the idea
– Her business partner went behind her back
– The loneliness of being an entrepreneur
– The whole team leaving
– Regulation headaches
– Huge personal financial commitments to the project
Boden struggled to raise investment and she travelled the world including what would be thought of as a natural ally for a digital only bank, Silicon Valley, but came up short every time. All the traditional methods failed including one deal pulled at the death, and in the end, it took a reclusive single investor in the Caribbean to provide the money required.
Now of course we do only hear one side of the story when it comes to the acrimonious split with her business partner, and she freely admits she does make a habit of saying one thing to her team and then going off to do the complete opposite with investors and regulators and the like. I would therefore imagine she is no saint for work for, but to take this business from an idea in a cab to the Starling Bank we see today, you have to be one resilient and focused entrepreneur so hats off to Anne Boden, and I’d recommend her book.