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In Southampton, Senior Customer Service Manager Darwin Handley is heading up the festivities on Christmas Day. “We will be having a very fun, festive atmosphere laden with Christmas treats and snacks. I’m personally going to be dressing up as Father Christmas and we will have elves as well,” he says. “I’ll be opening the doors at 6am, full of Christmas cheer and we may have some Christmas music in the background.”

Back in London, we spoke to four of our agents to find out why they joined Starling and what they’re looking forward to this festive season.

Evan Shields

Evan Shields became a Starling customer before he became a Starling employee. He opened his account in August 2017 and joined the team a year and a half later. “Before I had Starling, I never paid attention to my bank balance, especially because I needed to wait a few days to see what it actually was,” he explains. Starling updates in real-time and sends notifications every time money moves in or out of your account.

As an agent in our London office, he answers calls and replies to messages sent through the live chat function in the Starling app. “Every day is different - you get to learn something new about the bank or how to help customers,” he says. Before Starling, he worked as a manager in a pub in Walthamstow. “Compared to the pub, I’m now concentrating on helping customers rather than managing people.”

Evan, 29, has lived in the UK for the last six years. He grew up just north of Sydney and studied economics at the University of Newcastle in Australia. “I love that it’s cold at Christmas - where I’m from it’s 40 degrees.” He also loves Christmas music: “Some people hate it but I think it’s pretty good. There’s a radio station that plays Christmas music from the beginning of November to the end of December, 24 hours. Get into the spirit.” He’s also a big fan of Christmas jumpers and starts wearing his collection to work on 1st December.

Lucy and Evan smile in festive jumpers
Lucy Allen and Evan Shields, Starling Customer Service

Lucy Allen

Lucy is approaching her one year Starling anniversary. “I joined because I heard such good reviews from both staff and customers” she says.

She previously worked for a credit card company, making calls to people who had missed a payment. “We asked them why and checked if they needed financial help. It was quite tough at times because you got the odd person who was really struggling financially or had someone who had passed away. When people call in to Starling about overdrafts or if they are stuck for cash, it’s helpful to have that background because I can empathise and ask the right questions.”

In the run up to Christmas, she’s noticed more people asking how long the card will take to arrive, especially from customers going abroad. Once your account is approved, the debit card will arrive within three to five working days. You can also activate your digital card for Apple Pay before your physical card arrives using the Card Controls screen of the app. Lucy is looking forward to spending Christmas Day with her 2-year-old nephew and the rest of her family.

Steven and Mohabah smile in festive jumpers
Steven Reardon and Mohabad Abdulrahman, Starling Customer Service

Steven Reardon

Steven Reardon began his career working in bank branches. “I was 17 and had just left school. I did two weeks work experience and that turned into a full-time job,” he says. For the next 17 years, he worked as a cashier, receptionist and assistant branch manager. He sorted everything from accounting to auditing to rotas and one-on-one meetings with customers. But when the bank merged, all the processes he’d known and helped develop were changed. Steven, 46, decided to move into a different industry and spent 11 years working in property.

In October 2018, he joined the London Starling office as a Customer Service agent. “I enjoyed banking before but my past role was very sales focused - I wasn’t in it for sales, I was in it for the customer,” he says. “I absolutely adore my job now. I love the people here and I enjoy the calls - I used to stand in a branch talking to customers all day and that confidence comes across,” he says. He grew up in Greenwich, South London, where he still lives.

His favourite thing about Christmas? “Seeing the kids’ faces on Christmas morning,” he says. He has two daughters with his partner of 25 years. “I have very fond memories with my own mum and dad. We had very little money back in the day but we’d always have a really special Christmas Day.”

Mohabad Abdulrahman

Before Mohabad joined Starling Customer Service a year ago, she worked as a fraud investigator for a traditional bank in Amsterdam. She moved to London for her husband’s work and found Starling through her job hunt. “I was actually planning to apply for fraud but I felt I needed to know more about the culture in the UK and the kind of products offered. I’m more prepared now than if I had started as a fraud investigator. Our Customer Service is not like other call centres - you need to know everything about Starling Bank. We make summaries, raise them with the right team and solve a lot ourselves. It’s made me learn a lot about UK banking.”

Mohabad, 33, always tries to see problems from the customer’s perspective. “I notice that if someone has been through something bad or has lost someone, it affects them more around December time. They are a bit more sensitive.”

She also relies on her knowledge and understanding of different cultures across the world: she was born in Iraq, moved to Greece when she was two and spent the last twenty years in the Netherlands. She speaks Kurdish, Greek, Dutch, English and is learning French.

Christmas Day at Starling

It will be the first Christmas Day for our Southampton office and the third for our London office. As always, throughout the Christmas period we’ll have festive decorations, plenty of mince pies and lots of sparkly Christmas jumpers.

Stay tuned for another blog post in the New Year when we’ll be talking to more members of Customer Service, all based in our Southampton office.

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