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Customer story: Making the switch after 28 years with a traditional bank

Richard switched to Starling after 28 years with a ‘traditional’ bank. We had a chat to find out why he chose Starling and how it’s changed the way he manages money.

Tell us a little bit about yourself

I’m the Chief Technology Officer for a financial services company in the pension space, based in Central London around Charing Cross, and I live in London Fields in Hackney.

My true passion is picking up my camera, listening to music and meeting people. I’m one of those people that does street photography, I’d go talk to a stranger.

Is that difficult?

It is and it isn’t. You can wake up some mornings and just not want to do it but most of the time you can. It’s about calming them, explaining why you want to do this. “Well, why do you want to take my photograph?” I do instant photography as well, so I’ll give them a photograph, and it works. They’re my passions.

I’m heavily passionate about technology, but it’s my living. For me, it’s about finding technology that’s right. I don’t have a smartwatch, because I wouldn’t get that benefit; I’m not a sportsman and I don’t need my watch telling me my next appointment because I am pretty organised. There’s a point at which I will say, no that doesn’t make sense, but yes I am a huge enthusiast of technology and I find that it’s a huge enabler, especially being a city person.

We’re really pleased you’ve agreed to come chat to us. Your tweet about switching to us after 28 years with another bank caught our eye.

Yeah, my bank was annoying me. That is the only time in 27 years that they annoyed me though. Since then they’ve got in touch, they’ve sent me a two page letter saying I should come back. I was there right from the start, I was once told I am customer 44. When they came on the scene they were innovative one but they haven’t kept moving quick enough.
Even though I enjoyed my time with them, with you (Starling) providing a transparent presentation of all the financial information, plus being covered by the FSCS made the difference for me. It’s difficult to really say why, but I feel far more connected with you. I won’t say a bad word about my previous bank, what they did was amazing, but you’ve got to move on. For Heaven’s sake, I used to find cassette players amazing!

We’re always interested to hear how our customers first heard about us, how did you?

With my job I am very aware of latest technology developments and I heard about the new challenger banks. I researched yourselves along with the others, and quickly knew 100% that I wanted to give one a go. I looked at the feedback and saw that you had just launched a couple of new features within your app, including Goals which really got my attention. So, I downloaded the app and signed up. I tested the card as soon as I got it for about a day, and totally got it, so I instigated and completed my switch within a week.

Absolutely. I think a lot of people will just settle with their current banks, and it’s not until you have experienced the new you realise this is how easy it can be.

So, what gave you the final nudge to make you want to switch bank? Was it a single reason or a number of?

Aside from getting frustrated with my previous bank, I think it was just in my head that it makes complete sense to do this. Money is not the same anymore and I just think it’s important to know what you’re spending, as you spend it. It’s not an obsessive thing, I just think it makes sense. When everything else in your life is real time, why shouldn’t your banking be?

Did you have any reservations or were you concerned about anything?

Nope, absolutely not. You were providing a product that I’d be very happy with. You had FCA signoff, you had the security of £85,000 deposit protection from the FSCS. Everything was there, so it was no more of a leap for me to join you than it was to join any other bank. But you also had all the added bonuses with more innovative features and technology.

I’m impressed you can do that with, what I can see is, about 100 or so people in your office.

Yeah – that’s something our CEO Anne always mentions. She’s now doing with 100 people what she used to do with 1000’s.

The thing is that, you can do that because you don’t have legacy, so you can adapt. Your customer service is as good as my previous bank and they have one of the best customer services I’ve ever known, it was their unique selling point. Yours just works, it’s in app, tap and I’m done.

Another great thing with not having legacy is that the security seems better. The product feels like it has been built up with security in mind, as opposed to it being patch work with a legacy banks framework. Older banks have a mish-mash of systems that have to try and talk to each other. It’s not their fault, it’s just legacy. That’s why you have to break free sometimes and go with someone that’s new.

We have a few things that we live by here, and one of those is using technology to solve problems in people’s financial lives. Your Tweet seemed to highlight the innovation aspect. Was that key for you?

Your unique selling point to me was Goals. It was also the fact that everything is interest linked. I could move all this money around into Goals and still get interest.

Your point about Goals is really interesting, so how are you using Goals at the moment?

I have 4 goals at the moment…don’t judge me!

One is the house fund, because I live in a flat. I have a mortgage, but with flat life you don’t have roofs falling on you etc, so you might not think about putting money aside, so I have a discipline where there’s just always some money available. It used to be mixed up in my other savings, so that feature is just so useful.

I also have my 60th birthday coming up. I’ve decided I want to save some money for that to do something special, so I’ve set it up as a proper target goal within the app and I’m seeing the bar go up.

Then there’s money for just…’savings’. You just never know what might come up and this is the get out of jail free card.

I have my tech fund. That one goes up and down. It’s good because it’s just a separate place. That’s where I tend to chuck my spare pennies…£5 if I didn’t buy lunch, £10 here and there. It’s my treat fund. The header photo of this post was taken with my Google Pixel that I saved for with my tech fund!

It is almost gamification, it’s not just a savings account with a number. You can see the progress bar going up, see the picture of what you’re aiming for. It just feels different and that’s good because I’ve saved more than I have done in ages, and I’m enjoying it.

Have you travelled with your Starling Card? Where did you go?

I’ve not been fortunate enough to travel with the card yet, but you’ve got a pricing structure that won’t charge me for being away either which I like.

I’ve got one trip coming up at the end of 2018, but I’ll probably go to Europe early next year with my partner. Somewhere like Amsterdam or Brussels, where you don’t have to fly. Not that I mind flying, it’s just more fun when you can get there by train and, of course, from London it’s easy to do that kind of thing. I’ll be taking my Starling card with me, of course.

Is there anything that you’d like to change or that you’ve looking forward to from us?

One thing that I’m looking forward to is joint Goals. I’d like my partner and my account to be joined so that we can create a virtual account for the house and have it together. I think that’s real innovation, not just for partners and families, but also people who are in a shared house.

How has Starling changed the way you manage your money?

Now my current account is with you, everything is instant. Even my Direct Debits going out, or my salary is coming in (that’s my favourite notification). I find that constant real-time information really useful.

People who are just entering the workforce, in particular, must really appreciate this technology. The problem these days, with the gig economy especially, where you can just tap to order a pizza or a taxi, is that suddenly at the end of the month you wonder where all your money went because you’ve not got that real time notification and you’re not handling cash. With Starling, I get to the end of the month and I think…”I’ve spent too much on Uber this month, this is silly”, and I’ve stopped it.

Thanks again for coming in to see us. We exist to help our customers improve their financial lives and it’s important for us to understand what’s working well for you, as well as where we can help further.