Anne Boden speaks for the first time about the coup which created Monzo

By Oliver Smith on Monday 26 October 2020

Digital Banking

Five years later, the first details of Tom Blomfield’s departure from Starling Bank are coming to light.

Anne Boden speaks for the first time about the coup which created Monzo
Image source: Anne Boden/Starling Bank.

The story of how Tom Blomfield left Starling Bank in 2015 to launch his own banking rival Monzo is a cornerstone of UK fintech folklore.

However, in the five years since, few details have ever emerged about what really happened, despite all those involved being asked countless times.

Until now.

In her new book Banking On It, Starling Bank CEO Anne Boden is setting out her version of those crucial moments in 2015, which would lead to the creation of her greatest business rival.

In an extract from her book, serialised in The Sunday Times, Boden describes how Blomfield, then her chief technology officer at Bank Possible (later renamed to Starling), launched a coup in February 2015.

According to Boden, in the midst of an already challenging funding round Blomfield announced his departure, further throwing the fintech’s funding plans into disarray, before launching his own funding effort, this time with an aim of taking control of the business “to engineer what was nothing less than a coup”, writes Boden.

“Tom [Blomfield], Gary [Dolman, who would later become Monzo’s CFO] and Jason Bates [who would later co-found 11:FS] met with Eileen [Burbidge] and Stefan Glaenzer at Passion Capital and agreed a deal. Tom made it clear that he was not able to work with me. It was all such a shock. Somehow Tom had taken my place—Passion Capital was in and I was out.”

Ultimately Blomfield’s manoeuvre with Passion Capital was unsuccessful, in part because, according to Boden, the duo pushed for her to take responsibility for all of Starling’s debts, which at the time included more than £1m owed to KPMG and PwC.

As Boden declined, Blomfield and co would eventually depart to start Monzo, but would leave Starling Bank staff-less, un-investable, and heavily indebted—for a time at least.

“This was Starling’s near-death experience. At the time, I had no way of knowing if it was one stage further than that. Whichever way I looked at it, I was effectively back at square one,” writes Boden.

Next week another extract of Boden’s book will be published covering a “secretive billionaire and the £48m deal that sent Starling into flight”, likely covering the involvement of Austrian investor Harald McPike who became Starling’s biggest shareholder.

Boden’s book—her second after financial management guide The Money Revolution in 2019—Banking On It: How I Disrupted an Industry will be published on 5 November by Penguin Business.

The CEO will also be revealing more about her new book at the AltFi Festival of Finance on 10 November at 10.30am, as part of the session Digital Finance In 2030, get your ticket today.

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