Posted on July 3, 2018 by staff

Anne Boden MBE: I still face gender bias in FinTech


The founder of one of the UK’s fastest-growing digital banks still faces the same biases she did during her 30-year banking career and says that finance and technology have “huge gender divides”.

Anne Boden MBE enjoyed a distinguished career working in senior leadership at a number of global banks, latterly as COO of Allied Irish Banks Plc, before setting up Starling Bank in 2014.

The mobile-only challenger bank has since grown its London team to more than 200 people and raised £58 million in funding, with plans to raise an additional £40 million to £80m.

Despite being at the helm of a disruptive FinTech firm, the Swansea-born entrepreneur told BusinessCloud she still experiences biases against women in finance and technology – but says things are beginning to change.

“I’ll be at an event for CEOs and people will still ask me what I do,” said Boden, who was recently awarded an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list for services to FinTech London.

“When I was seeking funding back in 2014, I found that Silicon Valley investors seemed interested only in backing people who looked like them and fitted the start-up stereotype.”

However, Boden stressed that there are some “great initiatives” underway to address both conscious and unconscious biases against women.

She added: “There are already so many brilliant women leaders in FinTech. We’ve got an opportunity here in the sector to lead the way not only in terms of customer experience, but also in terms of gender and Starling is part of this.”

A recent report produced by research firm Beauhurst found that only 12 per cent of 743 FinTech companies in the UK have a female founder or co-founder, putting entrepreneurs like Boden in the minority.

Boden said she was “disappointed” but not shocked at the findings.

“Finance and technology are two industries with huge gender divides and a long way to go,” she said. “But this is beginning to change.”

Starling Bank was set up in 2014 and obtained a full banking licence in 2016, followed by the launch of its first account in 2017. Less than a year later, it was voted Best British Bank by consumer review website Smart Money People.

Earlier this year it became one of the first mobile-only banks to offer business accounts.

“We saw an opportunity to use financial technology to help make business banking quicker, smoother and more transparent,” Boden said.

“Let’s face it, no one starts a business so they can spend time with their bank manager. So we’ve made it possible for our customers to set up a business account in under ten minutes and manage everything from the app.”

In a recent interview with BusinessCloud, the founder of digital bank Revolut accused traditional banks of “living in the past” and being too slow with rolling out tech-driven banking experiences for their customers.

Boden says it’s less about ‘the death of high street banks’ and more about the transformation they will have to go through to provide the kind of digital services that customers have come to expect.

“They are watching very closely what we do, but I think they are struggling to keep up with the FinTechs,” she said. “They are encumbered with outmoded legacy IT systems, whereas we built our own technology from scratch.

“So essentially, they are following, not driving, innovation and disruption.”