(Women on Top in Tech is a series about Women Founders, CEOs, and Leaders in technology. It aims to amplify and bring to the fore diversity in leadership in technology.)

Here is my interview with Anne Boden, CEO and founder of Starling Bank. Prior to Starling, she was Chief Operating Officer of Allied Irish Banks Plc and Head of EMEA, Global Transaction Banking across 34 countries for RBS and ABN AMRO. She has more than 30 years experience in banking, having begun her career at Lloyds Bank, before moving on to Standard Chartered Bank and then UBS in Zurich. She was recently recognized as one of the Global Power Women in FinTech.

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What makes you do what you do?

I love the chance to create and innovate in an industry that’s ripe for disruption. I also love the people – everyone around me has a passion for change and the skills to do it. This is absolutely one of the best things about building Starling.

How did you rise in the industry you are in?

The hard way – by working hard and taking chances. Whilst some may say that I have worked in Financial Services all my career, I have worked in Technology, Sales, P&L roles across Retail, Investment and Corporate Banking as well as a stint in insurance. I have also worked in many countries and led the team across international regions. What was really important to me was always staying curious, always staying in touch with the latest innovations.

Why did you take on this role/start this startup especially since this is perhaps a stretch or challenge for you (or viewed as one since you are not the usual leadership demographics) 

I was ideally suited to starting a fintech bank – I was up-to-date in what technology offered and customers demanded having spent thirty years in banking – starting at 21 on a graduate scheme as a computer programmer and working my way up to becoming COO and CIO at some of the world’s biggest international banks. I also spent time in the fintech startup scene before starting Starling.

Starling was born of necessity. After the financial crisis, the world had changed. People had changed. But banking had not. Starling is a whole new way for people to understand and look after their money – we’re fully mobile, provide unparalleled tools and insights into everyday spend, and have the customer at the heart of everything we do. I wanted to be part of the solution for finance. And this is exactly what we’re doing at Starling.

Do you have a mentor that you look up to in your industries or did you look for one or how did that work?

Not really – there is a distinct lack of role models for women who start banks. However, many years ago I was a mentee of the FTSE 100 Cross-Company Mentoring Scheme, where senior woman are mentored by a Chairman of a FTSE 100 Company. This gave me invaluable experience that really enabled me to push my career forward at the time.

Now as a leader how do you spot, develop, keep, grow and support your talent?

Tell people to get on and make their own careers and chances. The perfect career is out there for everyone – but you need to be ambitious and not wait in line for opportunities. Every year of your career is important and you need to fill it with challenge and excitement.

Do you consciously or unconsciously support diversity and why?

Conscious bias has been largely eliminated in modern say business but unconscious is still here. Men and women have unconscious bias and in most cases, it makes it harder for women to reach their potential. I have been quoted as saying that “women are either described as too soft or too hard and never quite right”. One day this will not be true but we are still in a position where women’s performance in the workplace is more harshly judged by their achievements whilst men can still rise based on their unproven potential.

What is your take on what it takes to be a great leader in your industry and as a general rule of thumb?

Resilience. Leadership is about being there for people and doing all you can to enable the team to do a good job. It is all about evening out the stresses and strains for the team.

Advice for others?

We are launching a bank like no other. I can only do this because I have a diverse team in all sorts of ways. I enjoy their company, their intellect, and their support.  Leadership is a social activity and if you don’t enjoy the company of your team then either you or they are in the wrong job.


To learn more about Starling Bank, please see https://www.starlingbank.com/.

I am a huge fan and cheerleader of Women Leaders — If you know of an AMAZING Woman Founder, CEO, Leader in Tech or you are one yourself — Write me here.
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