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Monzo’s chief risk officer departs after a year amid mounting loanbook pressure

Exclusive: Outgoing CRO Lisa Nowell has left after just 1 year at the firm

By Isabel Woodford

London digital-bank Monzo has seen the departure of another top-level executive, with its chief risk officer stepping down after just one year, the company confirmed to Sifted.

Lisa Nowell has been replaced today by banking veteran Iain Laing, who has previously served at leading UK institutions including TSB Bank, Santander and Nationwide.

Nowell is the latest in the series of Monzo executives to leave following a major reshuffle in its top ranks over the last year, including the appointment of a new chief executive during lockdown.

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As chief risk officer (CRO), Nowell was largely responsible for handling compliance issues on the product side, as well as overseeing Monzo’s nascent lending scheme.

Lending has been a sore spot for the bank, with its latest annual report warning that credit losses could be as high as £20m  — meaning it’ll have lost 7% of the total lent out (including overdrafts), in the worst-case scenario.

Marc Rubinstein, a former hedge fund analyst calculated that lending is actually “hurting” challenger banks, with Monzo recording a riskier loan book than its peers.

Monzo is also currently reviewing its financial crime framework (meaning how it flags scams and fraud) following prompts by the Financial Conduct Authority, The Times reported in August.

Before Nowell joined Monzo from ClearBank in October 2019, the CRO role had been vacant for 12 months.

An insider told Sifted that Nowell told colleagues at Monzo she was leaving to take a break and pursue an alternative career path. However, an update to her LinkedIn profile suggests she has recently moved to Ashman Finance, an SME lending house.

In a comment to Sifted, Monzo’s CEO TS Anil said Nowell’s departure had been amicable:

“We’re extremely grateful to Lisa who’s been an integral part of Monzo and helped us build a world-class risk and compliance team. She continued to lead our risk and compliance function and support our executive team to hire a successor.”

Regarding new hire Iain Laing, Anil added:

“Iain has over 20 years’ experience managing risk at some of the UK’s most established retail banks and lenders, and today we’re fortunate to welcome him as our CRO (subject to regulatory approval). The range of his experience and depth of his expertise will be crucial as we continue to build out our business.”

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