The public has come to expect service brands to have a strong mobile presence or an app at the very least, and in some cases to be completely mobile-first.

But this isn't news. Everyone's aware of how consumer behavior has changed to favor mobile channels since the evolution of smartphones in the late 2000s.

And yet, even though the world has been this way for over a decade, retail banking just hasn't kept pace. It's often a rigmarole to set up direct debits and standing orders through your mobile, and checking your balance can mean jumping through several hoops before you get to what you want.

These days, customers expect a better service from the banking sector. They've grown frustrated by its outdated ways, especially with so many other established industries like healthcare and retail shifting to mobile almost seamlessly.

In 2014, Starling 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.

  • 2014

    • Scale: Having enough data centers and IT capacity to hold milllions of customers' data.
    • Innovation: Having the freedom to create new digital services without wasting time and money building a full IT architecture.
    • Security: Making sure customers’ data stays safe from cyber-attacks and fraud.
    • Cost: Keeping upfront costs as low as possible to keep investors happy.
    • Regulation: Building a completely new financial product while staying fully compliant.

    The FCA, the PRA, the FSCS, the EBA, the ESMA, the ESRB – the list goes on.

    But all of the regulators were supportive. They'd been looking for new ways to make banking more transparent, especially in the wake of the 2008 crisis.

    And with Starling using AWS to build all of its infrastructure, it was clear to the regulators that all technology would be secure and compliant as standard.

    Soon, the regulators began encouraging Starling to innovate even further. They means-tested Starling's proposed cloud IT infrasturcture, and supported them in staying fully compliant with European law.  

  • 2015

    The AWS Cloud was the natural home for Starling Bank because it offered:


    → Fast scalability from servers and data centers that could spin up and down in minutes.


    → Native security from compliant systems already accredited by 18 global regulatory bodies.


    → A reliable and resilient architecture that didn’t need to be created from scratch or maintained.



    → Low costs thanks to a pay-as-you-use service that avoided the heavy capex of an on-premises IT infrastructure.



    The Revised Payment Service Directive is an EU regulation that was set to blow open the retail banking industry in 2018.

    Once it came into effect, banks would have to open up their account information and payment services for other businesses to use. Effectively, developers outside of the bank would be able to use banks' data and APIs to create their own financial products and services.

    With banks being notoriously private about their IT systems, PSD2 was set to democratize the retail financial services industry like never before.

    By building a bank with an open API from day one, Starling will be natively compliant with the PSD2 directive. This will put the bank one step ahead of its established competitors, who must rethink their architectures and strategies to comply.

    The move had to be made. So later that year, Starling started work on an open API.

  • 2016

    EU and UK regulators declare that Starling's cloud infrastructure has satisfied their compliance requirements.

    Starling is given the all-clear to set up its first customers' beta accounts.

    The bank is born.

    And investors are delighted – they award Starling a further £14.84M.


    Beta testing can begin.

    Starling sends out debit cards to early-adopters, tracking their customer experience metrics in order to optimize the app's UX.

    As the results come in, the team rolls out new updates.

    They expand their cloud storage and computing power, updating Starling's functionality on a weekly basis.


    The Faster Payments Service provides banking customers with the ability to send up to £250K to customers of other participating banks in seconds.

    Late in 2016, having completed the compliance process, Starling gets the go-ahead to start offering Faster Payments across its services from 2017.

    It passes through the compliance process, and gets the go-ahead to start using Faster Payments across Starling services from 2017.

  • 2017

    The Prudential Regulatory Authority (PRA) and Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) audit the bank’s IT and security, and come away satisfied.

    Starling is granted a full UK banking license – not bad for a bank with no physical branches or on-premises IT infrastructure.

    Now a full licensed, mobile-only bank, Starling goes on to receive a new round of funding from investors – £30m this time.


    Starling officially launches the first full version of its mobile banking app.

    Using UX data from customer interactions, Starling makes ongoing improvements to the app.

    With a cloud architecture built for power and agility, Starling can run around 15 fully compliant updates in any given week.

    In April, Starling opens up its marketplace to the world’s developers.

    It marks the occasion with its first hackathon. Some of the world’s brightest fintech minds meet in the UK to build their own products using the Starling API.

    Starling becomes a launchpad for several new payments and banking integrations.


    Thousands of new customers choose Starling Bank.

→ Secure virtual server hosting through Amazon EC2

→ Fully managed, scalable database engine with Amazon RDS

→ Automated cloud services from AWS CloudFormation

→ ‘Data lake’ data storage and retrieval with Amazon S3

→ Running code without provisioning or managing servers through AWS Lambda

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.

Watch this video to learn how Starling Bank manage its privileges for releases on AWS via automation with Slack. Not only that but it's mostly serverless too! Learn more about This Is My Architecture.

A number of new features have been added to the customer-facing app Starling customers use to manage their current accounts, including:

  • Account set-up that takes just minutes.
  • Faster payments.
  • Data that tracks where they’re spending their money and on what.
  • Instantly adjustable overdrafts.
  • Integration of Apple Pay and Android Pay.
  • International security and zero roaming fees.

Soon Starling customers will be able to:

  • Ask Amazon Alexa to pay their utility bills, or ask how much they spent on cabs last week.
  • Find cheaper alternatives for services like utilities.
  • Save automatically thanks to integration with companies like MoneyBox.
  • Make international currency transfers with TransferWise.
  • Use their fully tracked credit history to help with mortgage approvals.

If you want to create your own cloud business, we'll be with you all the way.

Find out how to get started on AWS.

Or get more information on how AWS Activate can help you fast-track through the early stages of development (and avoid the common pitfalls along the way).

You can also learn more about financial services workloads on AWS.

Learn about how Starling Bank started a challenger bank from scratch and find out how they are reinventing the banking model with our blogpost and podcast.

Read the Blog
Listen to the Podcast