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It's Never Too Late to Make a Billion

Updated: Jun 24, 2022

Aged 54, Anne Boden opened her laptop in a coffee shop on London’s Marylebone High Street in 2012, and told the world she was going to start a bank. It would be the Uber of banking, she explained, via hundreds of emails – and she was the woman to do it. The world disagreed.

Anne Boden

“I was a 5ft, middle-aged Welsh woman who’d never been an entrepreneur wandering around the City knocking on doors saying I’m going to start a bank... and it’s going to treat customers fairly, it’s going to use all the new technology and we’re going to give the accounts for free and one day it will be as big as Barclays. And guess what? They didn’t believe me. I was patronised, to be honest.”

Anne had spent decades working in traditional banks. “I’d quit my job where I had status and an office and people in my department to go into a world where it was just me and a laptop and no business cards,” she recalls. “I kept going to events where I was in my 50s and everyone else in the room was in their 20s. They were FinTech [financial technology] events, where tech bros got together to talk about how they were going to change the world. You feel rather awkward walking into the room where you see people wondering, is she one of us?”

She asked herself: is this where I belong? “But I had the huge advantage of not caring what people thought of me. I had the advantage of knowing who I was and knowing that I’d already achieved a lot. I realised that if I could embrace new ideas, and combine that with my self-confidence – because I didn’t mind if somebody laughed at me – that could be very powerful.”

And it was. Two years later – after amassing hundreds of rejections, a million pounds in debt and selling her house – Boden became the first woman in the UK to start her own bank. Starling, an online-only bank, has two million accounts and is currently valued at £1.1bn, earning it the much sought-after “unicorn” status of a privately held start-up valued at $1 billion or more.


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