Starling Bank, the U.K. challenger bank founded by banking veteran Anne Boden, is to open a second U.K. office this summer, where it plans recruit up to 50 software engineers and up to 100 customer service team members. The planned location is Southampton, on the south coast of England, and will be Starling’s first office outside of London.
In a call with Boden late on Friday, she told me that the majority of its Southampton office will be new hires who will be helping to build out the challenger back’s business banking product. In just under a year, Starling has garnered more than 30,000 SME business account sign ups, adding to around 500,000 consumer current accounts.
The company plans to invest heavily in its business banking division over the next few years, partly off the back of being awarded a £100 million grant from the Capability and Innovation Fund (CIF), which was set up by Royal Bank of Scotland to fulfil European state aid conditions arising from the bank’s £45 billion U.K. government bailout during the financial crisis.
Boden says that Southampton was chosen as Starling’s new office for its entrepreneurial spirit and high level of tech talent. She says the city is gaining a reputation as a “burgeoning tech hub” and has a growing skilled jobs market and good transport links, including to and from London.
More broadly, she wants Starling to “spread the fintech love” beyond its traditional base of London. There’s an increasing sense that U.K. tech is too London centric and that the country’s fast-growing tech sector and the employment opportunities it represents should be more even distributed.
To that end, Southampton was recently identified in research conducted by global service company CBRE as a technology “Super Cluster” based on the level, concentration and growth of tech sector employment in the city.
The city’s tech scene is also supported by the University of Southampton (where Tim Berners-Lee was previously Chair of Computer Science) and home to the Web Science Institute where Dame Wendy Hall is based. Nearby is also “innovation hub” Southampton Science Park, spanning 72 acres and housing a mixture of commercial offices, laboratories, and meeting and conferencing facilities.
Meanwhile, the news of a second Starling office comes a month after the challenger bank announced it had raised £75 million (~$97 million) in further funding. The new capital consisted of a £60 million Series C round led by Merian Global Investors, including Merian Chrysalis, with £15 million in follow-on funding from Starling’s existing backer and major shareholder Harald McPike. It brings total funding to date for the London-based challenger bank to £133 million, not including the more recent £100 million CIF grant.
Further forward, I’m told Starling is also committed to opening a second regional contact centre to support its growing customer base of SME businesses and individual current account holders. There was previously talk that Wales, the country where Boden hails from, could be chosen, although the bank is also eyeing up the North of England and the Midlands.