Boden reveals how Starling’s Series A handed a secretive billionaire control of her bank

By Oliver Smith on Monday 2 November 2020

Digital Banking

Through Starling Bank's first funding round Harald "Harry" McPike became its majority owner.

Boden reveals how Starling’s Series A handed a secretive billionaire control of her bank
Image source: Anne Boden/Starling Bank.

After speaking publicly for the first time last week about her feud with ex-employee-turned-rival Tom Blomfield, this week Anne Boden has detailed Starling Bank’s distressed first funding round.

In an extract from her new book Banking On Itserialised in The Sunday Times, the Starling CEO describes how her funding efforts were proving difficult after Blomfield departed with much of her founding team.

“By June 2015, the pressure to find backers was mounting,” Boden writes, pointing to Atom Bank, Tandem and Blomfield’s startup Mondo (later renamed Monzo).

“The regulators made it clear that our banking licence application was not deemed complete until we could name Starling’s investors, since they were integral to the assessment process.”

With funding crucial to kick-start Starling, Boden found herself in the company of Bahamas-based investor Harald “Harry” McPike, who founded investment group QuantRes.

Boden describes the secretive McPike as “of medium height, slim, with a neatly trimmed beard. If anything, he looked more like a smartly dressed explorer than a billionaire City trader, with his immaculately pressed Bermuda shorts and Oxford shirt.”

Following three-days of questioning including aboard his 92ft yacht, New Life, Boden received an offer, albeit not the Seed/Series A she had been expecting.

“Harry said that he didn’t want to invest £3m; he preferred to invest £48m in three tranches.”

The far larger sum meant that McPike would take control of two-third of Starling, a move that three years later by 2019 would knock Boden off the register as a “person with significant control” of the bank as her holdings have now fallen well below the 25 per cent requirement according to Companies House.

In the extract published in The Sunday Times, Boden doesn’t reveal her judgement of whether the investment was a good or bad deal for the bank, she only describes it as “the biggest-ever seed round in London”, and one which enabled Starling to file its banking licence application the very next day.

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 2030get your ticket today.

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