October 4, 2019

"Being an entrepreneur gives me a public voice" - Bookclub with Anne Boden, CEO and founder of Starling bank

Starling CEO Anne Boden explains how books gave her insight into another world, the power of being a generalist, and the book she recently wrote.

Chris Sisserian

3 min read

Starling CEO Anne Boden

Anne Boden founded the digital challenger bank Starling after over 30 years in financial services, including major global banks. She was awarded an MBE for services to financial technology in 2018. 

Growing up in Wales to a steelworking father and a mother that worked in a department store, Anne’s background is one not typically found in banking. Despite modest means and having not been to university, her parents valued books and education, making Anne particularly keen to share her literary experiences. 

Full disclosure: Anne gifted Sifted a pair of Starling socks shortly after conducting this interview:

You spent 30 years working for large corporations, is there a book you wish you’d read before starting a business?

Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of NIKE” by Phil Knight made me realise I should have started my own business at 21, just like Phil Knight, straight out of university. If only I had known that being an entrepreneur was so rewarding - I don’t mean rewarding in terms of money, but that being an entrepreneur gives me a public voice.

What was your favourite childhood book?

A book called “Your Choices at 14, 16 and 18.” My father took me to a bookshop in Swansea and I picked this book off the shelf when I was 13 which described the choices you can make at school at 14, 16 and 18. I can still picture the book shop now and see the book standing there since it was such a revelation to me. My copy was so well-thumbed - I didn’t know anybody who had been to university or who had A Levels so it was my only source of information about that world! That was how I learned about those things.

Is there a book that you frequently give as a gift?

The Lean Startup” by Eric Ries. I get asked for business advice by lots of people and that’s the one book I send everyone to get started on.

What about a specific business problem you’ve overcome with an idea from a book?

Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialised World” by David Epstein which challenges the idea that you need to start early and practice for 10,000 hours to be a success at something. If you embrace the concept outlined in Range, you know that people can grow into jobs at all stages of their lives or careers. Epstein argues that people like Tiger Woods, who became great as a result of being trained from a very young age, are one-offs. The majority of people can start things later in life, which is exactly what I did and I still have a couple more careers to get to!

What is the best introduction to your particular area of expertise?

I must admit that when I was starting Starling, I listened to Sam Altman’s lectures on “How to Start a Startup.

Anne Boden's Book The Money Revolution
Anne Boden's Book The Money Revolution
If you were to write a book, what would it be about?

I’ve already written a book called “The Money Revolution” - it’s about taking the fintech revolution out of Shoreditch to a wider audience and spreading the message about the digital financial revolution so that everybody can benefit.

One of these days I will take a holiday and ‘do’ some fiction, but not yet.
Which book is most frequently recommended to you?

People are always recommending fiction to me and I never read it. One of these days I will take a holiday and ‘do’ some fiction, but not yet.

Enough about books, are there any podcasts /movies/tv-shows that have impacted you?

I am listening to the a16z Podcast from Andreessen Horowitz about tech and culture trends, which is really good. All of a sudden I have also become addicted to medtech podcasts too. I’m really impressed by them all.