When I started the project that ultimately became Starling Bank all the way back in 2014, I was determined that we would be different. My motivations were straightforward; I wanted to fundamentally redefine how people interact with their banks. Like everyone, I was frustrated by the way banks frequently treated their customers, and having worked in the sector for many years, I knew that many of the mistakes made by the big banks are not intentional, but rather inevitable as a result of the way they had been traditionally set up.
I believed there was room for a start-up with new technology and an entirely different kind of business model. By beginning with a clean slate, I felt sure it would be possible to avoid the historic mistakes of traditional banks – and, in the process, transform banking forever.
Back in 2014, starting a new bank was thought to be almost impossible, and it was a long struggle to convince people that it was actually an achievable goal. Of course, now in 2018, there are a plenty of new banks jostling for space within the financial landscape, and other fintechs seeking to join their ranks. This new wave of competition means that I’m often asked to explain how Starling is different to these fledgling operations, as well as to our long-established peers.
One way that people differentiate brands – in banking or any other market – is by splitting them into ‘head’ or ‘heart’ categories. ‘Head’ is the choice based on logic and a cool weighing of the facts; whereas ‘heart’ is a decision based more on emotion and je ne sais quoi – coolness, if you like.
At Starling, we’ve always been happy to be thought of as the bank that’s chosen by the ‘head’. Our goal has always been to develop the best banking proposition in the world, by combining innovative technology – including AI and machine learning – with intuitive user experience design and competitive pricing. We’re confident that we’ve achieved that ambition, because we genuinely believe that Starling is the best banking app on the market today. But we’re not resting on our laurels; we’re constantly searching for ways to improve our product and pricing, and we like to think that if you’re a rational decision maker, you’ll choose Starling.
However, we also know that there’s something valuable about being regarded as a ‘heart’ brand – and we think we deserve a bit of recognition in that department, too.
Let’s be clear here. We’re not claiming to be ‘cool’ – not in the traditional sense of the word, anyway. In the spirit of full disclosure: Starling was not founded in a garage by a bunch of twenty-somethings in hoodies! We are, however, made up of a diverse team of engineers, designers and customer service professionals who are working to revolutionise banking with a zeal that would not be out of place in Silicon Valley.
What we’re proud to not have at Starling is the live-fast and die-young ‘bro’ culture that’s historically been prevalent in tech (and that, given events and scandals over the past couple of years, looks thankfully to be fading). Hands up, who thinks monopolies and rampant sexism are cool? More importantly, we think that our social conscience and passionate conviction to do the right thing are powerful forces that resonate with our customers – and we believe our ‘head’ credentials are, in fact, winning us a piece of our customers’ hearts. 2018 is set to be an important year for Starling – and we hope to win a lot more of both before the year is out.