How To Boss It Like… Anne Boden, CEO of Starling Bank

By Oliver Smith 20 April 2017

These leaders are changing our world for the better. We find out how they get the job done.

There are a handful of business leaders and industry figures in Britain who are changing the world.

From Howard Harrison to Danae Ringelmann, and Craig Donaldson, these smart people seem to get an incredible amount done, in an impossibly short space of time.

Today we’re talking to Anne Boden, CEO and founder of Starling Bank, who is undoubtedly a productivity guru.

A veteran banker by profession, Boden has worked across some of the world’s largest financial institutions from Lloyds to UBS and The Royal Bank of Canada.

It was as Chief Operating Officer of Allied Irish Banks in 2012 – where she helped start the process of turning around the unprofitable bank – that Boden began exploring the new world of financial technology.

A Swansea University alumni, where she studied computer science and chemistry, in 2014 Boden launched digital challenger bank ‘Bank Possible’ which would later become Starling Bank.

Read more: Starling’s secret mission to ‘unbundle’ your bank

Today Starling has become the first challenger bank to start testing current accounts among its thousands of beta testers.

A busy woman, with big ideas, The Memo asked Boden how she gets it all done.

What time do you get up, and what part of your morning routine sets you up for the day?

My Amazon Echo wakes me up every morning, and I ask Alexa to read me the news. I always brush up on the day’s headlines just before I leave for work at around 6.30am.

My daily commute is a chance to answer emails, check the day’s meetings and of course get my morning coffee then I’m ready for work in St James’s Square at 8.15am.

What apps do you use to be more productive?

I keep up to date with BBC News and iPlayer Radio, as well as using Twitter to follow fintech trends and industry news.

We use Slack to help us all stay in the loop on developments within the office. I love the random channel for all the office gossip. We’re all very social and like working together, so the random channel is where all the real news is.

And I suppose I should say that Starling is my favourite app – being the CEO, and all.

What smartphone do you have?

I use an Android smartphone and I also have two iPhone 6s – testing our apps in parallel with each other and keeping up to date with the latest features.

In the business of mobile banking, phones are important!

Simon Devonshire OBE visiting Starling Bank.

How many people, outside of family, do you meet in a day?

During a typical day at the office, I see around 150 people, plus all the people I meet on the way. You’ll never believe me, but the taxi driver recognised me this morning and told me he was waiting for the app!

We welcome a huge amount of visitors to the office, including most recently Simon Devonshire –  the Entrepreneur-in-Residence for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. It’s great to see people so excited about what we’re up to.

I have the pleasure of sitting closely with the skilled teams here at Starling, working in one large open space. What’s clear is that we all work best surrounded by people. My desk sits toward the front of the office, closest to the front door.

What book have you read, either recently or in the past, that has inspired you?

Well, I’m addicted to my Kindle, and most of what I read is, funnily enough, about building banks and setting up startups! I also read a few political autobiographies and entrepreneurs biographies like Elon Musk’s.

I always encourage people around the office to read a personal favourite of mine from the Starling library, Sprint: How To Solve Big Problems and Test New Ideas in Just Five Days [by Jake Knapp, John Zeratsky and Braden Kowitz].

And I’m also actually writing a book myself about how businesses have made themselves too complicated and have become remote from customers. I want to explain how unravelling the red tape can help big business understand their customers better.

When do you work until? Are you still sending emails in the night?

I think work and life are closely interconnected, so at home I’m sending emails until I go to sleep! I’m one of those people that believes in a completely connected life.

Isn’t it wonderful that, with technology, you can talk to so many people in such a fast way?

DM’ing people on Twitter, posting on slack, sending LinkedIn messages and also sending emails…work is a big part of our lives, that’s the modern way. It’s crucial to enjoy work and home equally.

What advice would you give for people who are eager to get into your industry?

Well, it depends on the industry: finance, tech or entrepreneurship.

What applies to all those is that you have to manage your own career. We have one life to do as much as we can of what we enjoy. Keep trying, work out what’s going right and what you do well, and keep doing more of it!

What was your favourite childhood toy?

Lego – building banks is clearly something I’ve wanted to do all my life!

If you could ask your idol one question, who would it be, and what would you ask?

Madeleine Albright is well known for her quote: “There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other”.

I’d probably ask her who she thinks is there!

Come back next Thursday for our next #BossItLike interview, and get in touch if you know a leader who’s also a productivity guru for us to talk to.