Banking On It: How I Disrupted an Industry by Anne Boden

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Banking On It: How I Disrupted an Industry by Anne Boden

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Category: Business and Finance
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Peter Magee
Reviewed by Peter Magee
Summary: An accessible and rivetting look at the setting-up of a new type of bank. Highly recommended.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 288 Date: November 2020
Publisher: Penguin Business
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-0241453582

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Anne Boden had an impressive track record in the financial services sector: she had thirty years experience at a senior level including Group Chief Operating Officer at Allied Irish Bank. AIB was in the throes of recovering from the 2008 financial crisis when she arrived and she was one of the first to realise that banks needed to do things differently. AIB thought it was at the cutting edge when it proposed opening a branch which allowed customers to access their accounts via a terminal. Boden took things a step further, realising that customers could access their accounts from their homes: the old branch network, employing thousands of people, would soon become redundant.

Boden also understood that customers had no loyalty to a financial provider and, in her words, nor should they. The focus had to be on the customer and not the operator. She saw clearly that to be profitable a business needed to be scalable whilst still holding costs in check: the emphasis needed to be on technology and innovation. Businesses needed to look at themselves and ask critical questions about the services they were providing. Boden was a visionary: she saw that there was a gap in the market for a digital-only bank, which led to the creation of Starling Bank.

The detail of setting up a bank might sound tedious, but this is a story of a woman fighting against entrenched views. Only 1% of venture capital goes to all-female teams and female entrepreneurs are a rarity. In her favour were good networking skills and the ability to pitch an idea and persuade KPMG and others to provide resources on a contingency basis. Any budding entrepreneur, male or female, would do well to take this section to heart: Boden is a strong personality and impressive role model. This is the woman who went out on the streets in the City offering choc ices to anyone who downloaded the Starling Bank app.

It was not all plain sailing along the way. She had an acrimonious split with the team that she had built, leaving her on her own: her only help was a friend who called in on spec and stayed to help her on an unpaid basis for a year. Her former team, led by Tom Blomfield, had tried to take over, leaving her with a debt of one million pounds. There could only be one winner in that battle - and I'm glad it was Anne Boden. This section of the book is utterly compelling: I was left pondering who would bid for the film rights - and this isn't something you often think about a business book.

Start-up banks need capital: we're taken on a journey to meet a Bahamas-based entrepreneur to whom Boden sells her vision and who believes enough in the concept to provide significant working capital in return for a stake in the business.

A book about the setting up of a bank and little else could have been pure advertising, but there's a great deal more to Banking On It than that. It's a clear-eyed look at the state of banking and how slowly it has moved with the times. It will give the reader a real insight into how the City, venture capitalists and those promoting new enterprises go about their work.

The book makes good reading: finance is not everyone's favourite subject but Boden makes it accessible. Business is clearly Anne Boden's life and there's very little room for anything else but as she freely admits - that's the way she prefers it.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy of this brilliant book to the Bookbag.

You should also read Anne Boden's The Money Revolution. For more about the financial crisis, try The Fall of the House of Credit by Alistair Milne.

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Buy Banking On It: How I Disrupted an Industry by Anne Boden at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Banking On It: How I Disrupted an Industry by Anne Boden at Amazon.com.

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