Money 20/20 EU: Starling's Boden eyes acquisitions and tech play

Money 20/20 EU: Starling's Boden eyes acquisitions and tech play

Starling Bank has set its sights on buying a lending platform and is also hiring in Dublin ahead of an anticipated move into Europe, CEO Anne Boden has revealed at Money 20/20 Europe.

Ever the atypical fintech poster child, Boden told the Money 20/20 crowd that Starling’s strategy was always to be an unfashionably profitable neo-bank.

Unlike many of its peers, Starling has focused upon individual customer profitability before customer acquisition and, as a result, now has 18 months of profits under its belt. With much chatter at Money 20/20 about revaluations, cash raises (or not) and IPOs disappearing over the horizon, the merit of Starling’s position was not lost on Boden’s audience.

Having already achieved what Boden called profitable critical mass in the UK marketplace - a three per cent share of the retail market and eight per cent of the SMB sector - and with healthy inflows of depositors’ funds, the challenge now is to deploy that capital.

The firm has so far bought the home loans portfolio from Kensington Mortgages, and buy-to-let specialist Fleet Mortgages.

Now, Boden has specifically called out a lending platform as being the most immediate acquisition target.

In other clues around next steps, Boden offered the "subtle hint" that the bank is hiring in Dublin at present. But she also explained that the business in Europe will be built upon offering “Starling’s rails directly to retailers,” rather than pursuing a local presence.

Beyond Europe, Starling has no ambitions to operate as a bank in local markets but instead intends to sell Engine, its SaaS banking platform, to existing banks and claims to be in talks with established players.

Boden framed Starling as being a global technology player which happens to have its own UK bank to provide a great case study of how to succeed.

As for a future IPO, Boden suggested: “At the end of next year, or early 2024.” However, referring back to the luxury of profitability, she stressed: “But we don’t need to IPO. We can pick our own timing.”

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