Starling bank boss Anne Boden advocates a change in working habits
Vision: Anne Boden supports online solutions in banking and office
It was not uncommon for Anne Boden to work in the office from dawn to dusk – at least until the pandemic struck. In fact, Boden attributes his success to his hard work. She has always worked long hours, from the start of her junior banking career in the 1980s until becoming the first woman to start her own bank in Britain, Starling, in 2014.
She felt the hard transplant was a sign of commitment to her colleagues and bosses, especially four decades ago when women in finance were scarce. But Covid-19 has turned professional life upside down, forcing many to work from home.
Now Boden, previously a strong advocate for the office, believes the era of “presenteeism” is over. She said, “I was someone who came into the office early in the morning and stayed all day, every day of the week. I thought that was the way it should be done. And at Starling, I felt I had to be there early in the morning because I was a leader. I was wrong.
“Things don’t need to be done like this anymore. We can reach more people in more regions with technology if we have a hybrid work suit. However, some business leaders fear that being away from the office will affect teamwork and creativity. Some have expressed fears that the trend to work from home has gone too far and now face a battle encouraging more staff to return to the workplace for even part of the week. Others said potential job applicants were asking questions about how many days they should work in the office.
Boden, 61, speaks on Zoom from his home in Marlow, Buckinghamshire, his Welsh accent still intact despite years in the town.
Starling is a digital bank that aims to provide better service than large lenders. It’s also one of Britain’s most valuable tech start-ups – worth £ 1.1bn after raising more funds from investors. The Railways Pension Scheme took a stake, giving retirees access to the bank’s growth prospects.
“I think we’ve come to realize that a lot of people are much more efficient working from home,” Boden said. “So I kiss her. ”
His comments come as ministers prepare to lift the last lockdown restrictions on July 19, which will see more staff returning to the office.
Many companies see this return as a chance to reconnect with staff and allow younger employees to learn directly from their older colleagues. But for others, the lockdown has irrevocably changed the way staff operate, with many choosing to work from home part-time.
The question is important to Boden. As the first British female bank founder and one of the few at the top, alongside Alison Rose at NatWest and Debbie Crosbie at TSB, she is keenly aware of the challenges women face in moving up the ranks. of the company. She says, “I’ve had a long career in financial services and it’s been tough being a woman. Getting to the top and staying there in financial services is tough. People expect you to go to the top. – beyond your male colleagues.
Not finding the right balance between work in the office and at home could penalize women, she said, adding, “Somehow the glory is given to those who are visible. We might find ourselves in a situation where some people work in an office and get great opportunities, while others in the regions, the elderly, women with family responsibilities take a large part of the workload but do not ‘get no fame.
Boden says, “It’s up to people like me to make sure we consider everyone, in all places. I think we can provide a better working environment. But we have to be careful not to let people out.
Critics will note that Boden built her career in the office, so it’s easy for her to tell staff not to worry about working from home.
“Ten years ago we couldn’t work from home so easily. Now we have the technology, ”she said, adding,“ But don’t replace office presenteeism with Zoom presenteeism. One is as bad as the other.
Starling’s 1,400 employees work across the UK, with more in Cardiff than in London. Boden grew up in Swansea, studying chemistry and computer science before fleeing to London. She has worked for some of the largest lenders including Lloyds, Standard Chartered, NatWest and Allied Irish Bank.
“If only I had had the chance,” she laments, leaving Wales at the time. “I had to come to London. Now all these years later we are reporting some great jobs in Wales. Boden founded Starling in 2014 with Tom Blomfield, who a year later broke ranks to create rival Monzo, now in an office across the road. The time had come to start a new bank, after the relaxation of regulations to make it easier.
The Big Four banks dominated the market and Boden felt the customer service was poor, giving astute digital newbies like Starling a chance. She says, “I could see there was a great opportunity for a bank that saw all the ways in which technology could be used to serve the customer, rather than save money. ”
Digital banking offers services ranging from personal checking accounts to business loans through a mobile app and online. Her main funder at the start was the mysterious billionaire investor Harald McPike, whom she flew to meet on his luxury yacht in the Bahamas to convince him to fork out the cash. He invested 150 million pounds in total.
It has since gained investments from the city’s heavyweights including Jupiter and Fidelity. Boden and his employees own almost a quarter of the company.
Starling’s growth really took off after receiving a £ 100million grant in 2019 from a pot of money meant to provide businesses with better banking services.
But its business loans were supercharged after being allowed to give taxpayer-guaranteed “rebound loans” during the pandemic. Of the £ 45.6 billion on loan from banks, Starling has distributed over £ 1 billion.
Boden now expects the bank, which has two million customers, to make a profit in the fiscal year ending March 2021, after recording a loss of £ 53.6million for 2019. She is also aiming for a listing on the London Stock Exchange at the end of next year. Will she flee the nest once Starling is listed? “I’m just getting started,” she laughs.
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