- Starling founder and CEO Anne Boden is stepping down June 30, the U.K.-based neobank announced Thursday.
- John Mountain, the digital bank’s chief operating officer, will serve as interim CEO. The company said it has begun “an international search for a permanent CEO and will update in due course.”
- The announcement came as the bank posted its annual results Thursday. Starling’s revenue more than doubled — to £453 million, compared with £216 million — during the year that ended March 31. It also reported pretax profits of £195 million, a sixfold increase over the previous year.
Concerns about a potential conflict of interest prompted Boden’s decision to step down, she said on a call with reporters Thursday, according to CNBC. She is a significant shareholder, with a 4.9% stake in Starling, TechCrunch reported.
Boden will remain on Starling’s board as a nonexecutive director after she leaves the CEO role.
“Now that we have grown from being an aspiring challenger to an established bank, it is clear the roles and priorities of a CEO and a large shareholder ultimately differ and require distinct approaches,” Boden said in a statement. “Separating my two roles is in the bank’s best interests. Handing over my responsibilities [as CEO] will enable me to focus on my position as a shareholder, championing Starling and ensuring we hold true to our values and vision.”
Boden’s departure comes amid leadership shuffles at two other U.K.-based fintechs. Revolut CFO Mikko Salovaara announced this month he would leaving that digital bank for “personal reasons.” James Radford, the CEO of the entity designed to host Revolut’s U.K. banking license, left the company weeks earlier.
Meanwhile, Wise CFO Matt Briers is stepping down next year, the company announced Monday. Additionally, the firm’s CEO, Kristo Käärmann, will go on paternity leave in September.
Boden’s interim successor, Mountain, has worked at Starling since 2015, serving a nearly six-year stint as chief information officer before moving to the COO role last year, according to his LinkedIn profile.
“What makes Starling stand out is that we’ve succeeded in making it both customer-led and technology-led throughout,” Mountain said Thursday. “We’ve firmly established a sustainable business model and I look forward to continuing our work of changing banking for good.”
Indeed, Starling just wrapped its second year of profitability, according to its annual report. It counts 3.6 million customers, £10.6 billion in deposits — a 17% from a year earlier — and £4.9 billion in loans.
“When I started Starling in 2014, I was told no one ever starts a bank, nobody wins market share and you’ll never make a profit,” Boden said. “Today’s results prove them wrong.”
Boden the advocate
In an annual letter Thursday, Boden also touted Starling’s software-as-a-service subsidiary, Engine, as a key to the neobank’s growth outside the U.K. Starling last year pulled its application for an Irish banking license after a four-year effort.
Despite Starling’s growth, Boden’s tenure has seen its share of turbulence. She weathered a coup attempt in 2015 led by then-Chief Technology Officer Tom Blomfield, who went on to found Monzo.
Starling also faced accusations last year from a former U.K. government official that it did not run adequate background checks on borrowers before giving out COVID-era bounce-back loans.
Boden asked the former minister to withdraw his statements, according to The Guardian.
But she may have nodded to the incident Thursday in her annual letter.
“I will never harden to the news of the financial distress caused to victims of financial fraud, including some of the most vulnerable in society,” Boden wrote. “Our people care and believe that a bank needs to strive to play its part in society. We do not always succeed at that, and often unintended consequences frustrate our efforts, but it is what we are all about.”
Boden took a stand against financial fraud in late 2021, halting advertising on Facebook and Instagram, and arguing she’d rather not risk exposing Starling customers to scams on the social-media platforms.
She also staunchly defended Starling’s independence. Rumors swirled in late 2020 that JPMorgan Chase and Lloyds had expressed interest in buying the neobank. Boden, for her part, said she “didn’t start a bank to sell out to the big boys.”
Starling, though, is in no hurry to launch an initial public offering, Boden told CNBC on Thursday. The neobank has raised £946.5 billion from investors including Goldman Sachs, Fidelity and the Qatar Investment Authority, and was last valued at £2.5 billion, according to CNBC.
“We’ve succeeded in disrupting an entire industry,” Boden said Thursday. “I’m immensely proud of these results, which are a testament to how far we have come as a team and how fast we’ve moved as a business.
“I have spent nearly a decade here as both the founder and CEO,” she added. “It’s been all-consuming and I’ve loved every minute of it.”