At Starling, our Risk team takes a collaborative and project-led approach to managing risks across the bank. There are almost 40 people in the team and we’re looking to grow this further.
Here, we find out from four members of the team about why they joined and what they love about working at Starling.
Hanna Sarraf, Chief Risk Strategy Officer
“I was attracted to the vision of changing banking for good and making it better for everyone,” says Hanna, our Chief Risk Strategy Officer.
“I come from traditional, conventional banking so I’d seen the frustration many people feel within a rigid system. What Starling has built bypasses the legacy issues and makes sure we have a truly customer-focused business model,” he says.
“We have leaner, more agile processes. And we try to align all our procedures from a risk management perspective to deliver the best outcome for our customers.”
Hanna works with people right across Starling to identify what risk management capabilities we need to focus on most, so that we can continue to grow safely, especially as we offer more complex products.
“If you work in Risk at Starling, you’ll become an all-round risk manager - you won’t spend all your time pocketed in one area,” he says.
“We have a culture of openness and inclusion and each one of us feels encouraged and empowered to challenge, guide and advise but also report and escalate any issues or risks.”
Catherine Britton, Head of Fraud Risk
As Head of Fraud Risk, Catherine looks at the big picture when it comes to mitigating fraud and scams. “I work closely alongside the operations, data and technology teams so that I can make sure we’re doing all we can to mitigate fraud” she says.
“I also do a lot of external-facing work within the industry in terms of communicating with other banks and with the organisations that regulate Starling, including the Payment Systems Regulator (PSR) and Financial Conduct Authority (FCA),” she says.
“Fraud takes two parties - a victim and a beneficiary - which is why collaboration is so key when it comes to fighting fraud, not only with other banks but with social media companies, technology firms, telecoms companies. Fraud doesn’t start at a bank, it starts upstream, such as on a website or with a phone call.”
Catherine joined Starling at the start of 2017, before the launch of the app. “One of the best things about Starling is the people. There are really smart people who are really motivated to do the right thing and are willing to try new things,” she says.
Jason Maude, Head of Technology Risk
Our Head of Technology Risk, Jason, joined Starling in 2016 as a software engineer. “I was intrigued by the idea of starting a bank from scratch. I was also fed up with working in financial software for companies that didn’t understand how software should be implemented - something that Starling understands completely.”
Jason joined in the early days of Starling. “We were all in one room and there were no customers, other than us as testers.”
Jason’s role involves coordinating and enabling communication between software engineers and other experts in the bank. “What’s kept me here all these years is that we keep changing and adapting, while keeping our core mission - that of making banking better for both customers and the industry as a whole.”
For Jason, our determination to keep moving also relates to our approach to Risk. “We’re safe not in spite of moving fast but because we move fast. Our safety and stability is like that of a bicycle, which is safe and stable when it’s moving, not when it’s still.”
For example, at Starling we release code almost every day, unlike other banks who often only release code every few weeks or months. “Our view is that the more code is released in one go, the more risky the release. So we release little and often. One of the many benefits is that it helps us spot any problems more easily. The smaller you make the haystack, the easier it is to find the needle.”
Cordelia Kafetz, Director of Financial Risk
“My job is to have oversight of our finance function’s management of financial risks,” says Cordelia, Director of Financial Risk. “Part of this includes analysing the financial risk of new products, for example, our ‘Fixed Saver’, to make sure we understand how it could impact the financial position of the bank.”
Cordelia joined Starling in 2021 from the Bank of England (BoE). She has more than 15 years experience of working in regulation and policy making. “I designed new policies to increase competition in the financial sector, including the 2013 regulation which enabled banks like Starling to enter the market. My last few years at the BoE were spent developing FinTech regulation.”
Her experience supervising banks and building societies throughout the 2008 financial crisis has meant that she has a comprehensive understanding of what the Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA) requires from Starling, which has proved invaluable in her role. In addition to her job in our Risk team, she also sits on the Board of Fleet Mortgages, which Starling acquired in 2021.
When asked what she most values in her role, Cordelia said “Since joining Starling, my role has evolved as the bank has evolved. Our risk function is growing and we’re not precious about making changes. If you suggest a change, you won’t be met with a statement like, “Well we’ve always done it that way.” We’re open to new ideas.”