Starling eyeing IPO by 2022, says Boden

Starling Bank has aspirations to become the UK’s first publicly listed digital challenger bank by 2022, according to chief executive Anne Boden.

Speaking to the Daily Mail, she forecasted the FinTech’s first full year of profitability by the end of 2021 and suggested that an Initial Public Offering (IPO) would be the route to long term profits.

“I didn't do all of this to sell out to a big bank,” Boden commented. “I think the future for us will be an IPO in two to three years' time.”

She added: “We're demonstrating a path to profitability that other digital banks have not, and we plan to break even at the end of next year.”

The app-based bank was founded in 2014 and has since become a major rival the likes of Monzo and Revolut, passing the milestones of one million customer accounts and £1 billion in deposits last year.

The company has raised £263 million funding so far, and narrowly missed out on turning a profit in the year to November 2018, with a loss before tax of £26,856.

Last year, the bank was awarded a £100 million grant by the RBS funded Capability and Innovation Fund, pledging to use the money to create 398 new jobs in the UK and to invest £94.8 million of its own money in increasing competition in the small business lending market. Starling has since increased its employee headcount to more than 900.

Boden’s suggestion that the lender could be listed on the London Stock Exchange, rather than sell out to a major High Street bank, would chart a course for UK FinTechs looking to establish themselves as rivals to incumbents, with shareholders able to profit from growth.

In a new year blog post, Boden reflected on the challenges involved in growing Starling from a startup into an established bank.

“As we’ve scaled and become a more mature company, we’ve had to make hard choices, but we don’t not do things just because they are difficult,” she said, explaining that a decision to change the structure of overdraft fees had resulted in higher charges for some customers.

“The changes are designed to reflect the true cost to us of offering overdrafts. Indeed, as we scale, we’ve never lost sight of the need to set Starling on a path to profitability,” Boden wrote. “It doesn’t matter how many customers you have if you haven’t figured out how to be profitable and are spending huge amounts servicing unprofitable accounts – what matters is how people are using your bank.”

She also spoke of the need to keep in mind the wider purpose of FinTech in helping customers to manage their financial wellbeing. “It’s easy for people like me to get swept away by the relentless march of fintech innovations, but we must guard against the trap of living in a Shoreditch bubble and make sure that we build our products and communications around the needs of everyone in the UK.”

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