Breaking the Banking Mould

How Starling Bank is disrupting the banking industry



Everything we do at Starling is about customers. The only thing that matters is that customers really want what Starling delivers.”

Anne Boden
CEO, Starling Bank

Come on Banking, Keep Up

The public has come to expect service brands to have a strong mobile presence or an app at the very least, but this isn't news. Consumer behavior has been changing since the evolution of smartphones in the late 2000s.

These days, customers expect a better service from the banking sector. They've grown frustrated with its outdated ways, especially with other established industries, such as retail and even healthcare, also shifting to the mobile-friendly approach.

In 2014, Starling Bank decided to respond to that frustration. The startup saw a gap in the market for a business that could combine the convenience of a mobile-first user experience with the functionality of a fully licensed bank.

So it set out to build a new service.

A Bank Born in the Cloud

With a clear goal of providing the best banking service in the world, Starling had to tick six big boxes: having enough data centers and IT capacity to hold millions of customers’ data, having the flexibility to innovate, operational resilience, making sure that customers’ data stays free from cyber-attacks and fraud, and keeping upfront costs as low as possible and staying complaint.

AWS was a natural choice because it was already accredited by 18 global regulatory bodies, even in 2014. Its pay-as-you-use model meant that Starling avoided the heavy capex of an on-premises IT infrastructure and could scale up or down seamlessly, and the architecture didn’t need to be created from scratch.

With Starling using AWS to build all of its infrastructure, it was clear to the UK and EU industry regulators that all of the technology would be secure and compliant as standard, and they awarded the company a provisional banking license. In 2016, Starling Bank opened its first customers’ beta accounts and in 2017, Starling was granted a full UK banking license and launched the first full version of its mobile banking app.

Since then, Starling has continued to innovate. As of October 2020, the company manages 1.8 million customer accounts holding more than 3.6 billion pounds in deposits. Starling continues to challenge traditional banks, growing its portfolio of services with features, such as multi-owner accounts for small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs), multi-currency debit cards, and an array of spending insights tools.

Innovation amid Uncertainty

With the agility of AWS underpinning its infrastructure, Starling has continued to innovate in spite of the COVID-19 pandemic, and has stepped up to help its customers as many were forced into lockdown and unprecedented times.

To assist those who have to self-isolate, Starling launched a Connected Card feature that enables them to let someone they trust make payments on their behalf. It also launched mobile cheque deposits so that customers don’t have to leave their homes to bring money into their accounts.

Starling also supports small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) that are struggling financially as a result of the pandemic saw with a government-backed Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme and the Bounce Back Loan Scheme (BBLS) scheme, which both aid SMBs in staying in business.

Looking Ahead

In the six years since its founding, Starling has helped customers apply for accounts in just minutes, make payments faster, track their spending, and do it all - and more - with ease from their mobile devices.

And it’s not done. The London-based company has continued to grow with a new office in Southampton, UK, opened in 2019 and another one in Cardiff, Wales, opened in March 2020. The data scientists, fraud prevention specialists, engineers and others who all innovate on behalf of Starling’s customers, sit within a workforce of more than 1,000.

About Starling Bank

Starling Bank is a UK-based digital bank, disrupting the financial services industry. Founded in 2014 by Anne Boden, it was granted a banking licence by the Bank of England in July 2016 and launched its first mobile personal current account in May 2017 available as a mobile app for both iOS and Android phones. It launched the UK’s first digital business bank account in March 2018. The Starling Marketplace provides customers with in-app access to a curated selection of third party financial services.

Starling Bank Uses AWS For:

  • Secure virtual server hosting through Amazon EC2
  • Fully managed, scalable database engine with Amazon RDS
  • Kubernetes management with Amazon EKS
  • Data lake data storage and retrieval with Amazon S3
  • Running code without provisioning or managing servers through AWS Lambda

Starling Bank Builds a Successful Mobile-Only Retail Bank on AWS (3:29)

Watch Anne Boden, CEO and founder of Starling Bank, discuss how the company has used AWS to build a fast, scalable, compliant infrastructure and to release new features every day.

Automated Privilege Management via Slack with Starling Bank on AWS (6:20)

Watch Greg Hawkins, technology strategy consultant and former CTO of Starling Bank, explain how the company manages its privileges for releases on AWS via automation with Slack. (Not only that but it's mostly serverless, too!)

AWS Services Used

Amazon EKS

Amazon Elastic Kubernetes Service (Amazon EKS) is a fully managed Kubernetes service. Customers such as Intel, Snap, Intuit, GoDaddy, and Autodesk trust EKS to run their most sensitive and mission critical applications because of its security, reliability, and scalability.

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AWS Lambda

AWS Lambda lets you run code without provisioning or managing servers. You pay only for the compute time you consume.

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Amazon RDS

Amazon Relational Database Service (Amazon RDS) makes it easy to set up, operate, and scale a relational database in the cloud.

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Amazon S3

Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) is an object storage service that offers industry-leading scalability, data availability, security, and performance.

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Companies of all sizes across all industries are transforming their businesses every day using AWS. Learn more about financial services workloads on AWS and start your own AWS Cloud journey today.