Ever wanted to find out about the people that get Starling into the news? Or the people that write the words on our website? Look no further.
Here, five Starling leaders talk about why they joined Starling, what they do and how our values as a company influence our approach to marketing and communications.
Rachel Kerrone, Director of Brand and Marketing
“We talk about Starling being in a category of one,” says Rachel Kerrone (pictured above, top left). “We’ve gone from being a start-up to being an established bank that’s built trust, credibility and profitability. We’ve come of age and pulled together the good stuff from both the innovative challenger banks and the established high street banks.”
Rachel joined the Marketing team in 2017, the year the Starling app launched. “When I started, we were very much a new brand with next to no brand awareness. We’re now hovering at around 70% brand awareness, meaning that around 70% of UK adults have heard of us.” Rachel has been a key driver of this growth.
As Director of Brand and Marketing, Rachel oversees our nationwide brand campaigns and above the line (ATL) advertising on TV, radio and podcasts and outdoor sites, for example on buses or the Tube. She and her team also manage partnerships, sponsorships, events and marketing of new products and features.
“My job is to get Starling to stand out and build fame right across the UK population,” she says. She heads up a team of nine people. When hiring, she looks for “someone who enjoys working in a fast-paced environment, across multiple teams and projects and wants to be part of changing banking for good. Someone curious and ideas driven with a genuine interest in making customers’ financial lives better.”
Gemma Johnson, Director of Digital Growth
When Gemma Johnson (pictured above, bottom left) joined Starling in 2017, she was a team of one, working on Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) for our website. Today, she manages a team of ten people, who focus on new customer acquisition, paid and organic through SEO, the website, digital media and advertising channels. Gemma was drawn to Starling by our mission of changing banking for the better.
“As a team it’s important we look at the big picture and business goals - that’s one of the reasons the organic and paid media channel owners work so closely together. If channels are managed and measured in silos it’s easy for them to work against each other,” she says.
“We have a test-and-learn culture where we are constantly iterating and building our knowledge, with data being at the core of every decision we make. Working closely with the data team is integral to our success.”
When it comes to growing her team, she says: “There’s no playbook for what Starling is doing to change banking, so when hiring we look for people that are not only experts in their fields but ask questions and are curious. Different perspectives are important, and having a team with diverse backgrounds - places you might come from, in-house, agency, freelance, different industries - really helps that.”
Alexandra Frean, Chief Corporate Affairs Officer
“I never thought I’d leave journalism but I knew that if I ever did, it would be to work for a good cause doing something a bit unusual,” says Alexandra Frean (pictured above, centre). “I felt Starling ticked that box. I wanted to be part of a company that was trying to disrupt an industry and change banking for good.”
Before joining Starling in 2018, Alexandra worked for The Times. As Chief Corporate Affairs Officer she leads a team of 13 and looks after our press office, public affairs and government relations. She also oversees our social media team and internal communications.
“We have a culture that encourages people to feel comfortable taking risks,” she says. “Of course, they’re calculated risks, but it’s immensely freeing. It means that you don’t feel like you’re sitting in traffic.”
One example of a risk taken within the Marketing and Communications team was the decision to stop paid advertising on Meta platforms. “We were concerned that Facebook and Instagram were taking advertising dollars from fraudsters who were then targeting banking customers - not just ours - and breaking their hearts and leaving them in financial hardship. We felt it was wrong,” she says.
“We want to take away the stress and anxiety that surrounds personal finance and money management and help people feel more in control.” It’s this mission that she keeps front and centre when hiring. “We look for people who have an understanding of our mission and really want to be part of it - that’s my number one thing.”
Eve Stepney, Head of Creative Studio
“I was interested in taking my copywriting career in a more purpose-driven direction – ideally in tech, as I was intrigued by its ambition and pace. Starling’s mission of building a bank from scratch felt like it fit the bill,” says Eve Stepney (pictured above, bottom right), who joined Starling in 2017, before the app launched.
Today, Eve heads up our in-house creative studio, a team of 11 writers, designers, motion designers and photographers working across marketing, the brand and the app.
“The lion’s share of our creative output is produced in-house. It’s great for efficiency: we can turn things around fast without too much frustrating back and forth.” For example, our sponsorship of the UEFA Women’s EURO tournament last summer was produced entirely in-house.
Previously Head of Copy, Eve built Starling’s tone of voice from scratch. “Banks come with their own unique set of regulatory and tonal boundaries. But ultimately, the aim is for people to come away from their Starling experience feeling like they’ve met a witty, well-informed grown up, who gives great money advice and talks to them like a human being. Every word is an opportunity: to delight, educate, reassure, connect or be useful,” she says.
Alongside Starling’s Art Director, Mark Day, Eve has worked hard to create a culture within the studio that allows people to thrive and grow. “We’ve got big ambitions and tight deadlines, but great work rarely occurs in an environment of fear or anxiety. People need to feel comfortable that they can express ideas safely without judgement.”
When hiring, she looks for “technical and creative excellence, obviously – but curiosity, great taste, a sense of humour and an ability to see the bigger picture are just as important.” She’s particularly interested in people who are “really willing – and able – to take ownership of multiple projects and run them creatively, strategically and logistically, from concept to final execution.”
Oliver Mott, Head of Social Media
“I found out about Starling quite randomly - it was the only bank I could connect contactless payments to on a fitness device I’d got for Christmas. I then looked into the bank and fell in love. I couldn’t believe my luck that the perfect job came up a few weeks later,” says Oliver Mott (pictured above, top right), who became our Head of Social Media in 2021.
“When I joined, what surprised me immediately was how little it felt like working at a bank. You’re given trust and autonomy straight away.”
Oliver leads the team that creates the content we post across our social media channels. “We also work closely with the team that responds to customers that reach out to us on social media - we’re a branchless bank and we’re trying to be the branch.”
Some of the most popular and powerful content they’ve worked on has been our anti-fraud content. “We use humour as much as possible to get people’s attention.”