Starling CEO Anne Boden says the bank has pulled all paid advertising on Facebook and Instagram until Meta tackles fraudsters advertising on its platforms. In her annual letter, Boden also confirms the planned launch of a Software as a Service (SaaS) proposition during 2022.
Boden has been at the forefront of an industry push to get financial fraud included in the government's new Online Safety bill, which aims to force firms - through the threat of massive fines - to improve internet safety in areas such as terrorist content, child sex abuse, hate crimes, cyber-bullying and the dissemination of fake news.
She accuses big tech and social media giants of allowing “financial fraudsters to advertise and post content on their platforms that result every day in people being scammed out of their savings”.
In December, Meta said it is working with TechUK's Online Fraud Steering Group to tackle the problem of fraudsters advertising on its platform. Boden says she welcomes the move but that until more details on when and how the initiative happens, Starling is stopping all paid advertising on Facebook and Instagram.
Boden goes on to take a dig at Facebook's Metaverse plans, recalling that in 2006 a bank opened a branch in Second Life, adding: "Fast forward a few years and see how much simpler it proved to be to provide 24/7 human contact via and app."
Elsewhere, the letter reads: “With SaaS (or Starling as a Service, as we like to call it) we will offer our partners the benefit of Starling’s advanced technology to use as their own. If a bank wants a digital bank, they can have one up and running in months with Starling’s SaaS offering. It will be their licence, our technology.”
Boden adds that the bank plans to continue expanding lending. “Expect a mix of strategic forward flow arrangements, organic lending across various asset classes and a targeted M&A strategy focusing on selected lending originators.”
The letter also outlines an intention to cater to those starting a new business, emphasising the role of SaaS, online course, and other software services to simplify the running of a company.
Boden provides a broader take on both diversity and fraud in the letter, criticising the state of funding female-backed firms as something carried out in stable times as investors only then have the appetite to “take a chance” on funding women.
“They do what is right because they know that people are watching. I suspect during a crisis, in this case the pandemic. When all eyes are on clear and present dangers, do they expect less scrutiny and stop worrying about who is looking over their shoulder?”
While the letter does not directly address the recent controversy sparked after Boden stated that “Open Banking has not been a success” to the Treasury Select Committee late last year, it does make clear efforts to set Starling apart from all other competitors. “As a profitable, fast-growing fintech built on proprietary software and with a substantial loan book, a valuation in excess of £1 billion and a tightly controlled cost-base, Starling now stands in a category of one.”