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Starling Bank breaks even and says it’ll be first challenger to turn profit

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Starling Bank said it is the first of the new breed of digital banks to break even and is on course to turn a profit.

Its trading update for the three months to 31 October reveal it has notched up a total of 1.8 million accounts – nearly double last year’s figure, £4bn in deposits (up from £897m last year) and £1.5bn of lending.

It hit break even in October, generating £9m of revenue for the month and a positive operating profit of £0.8m or £10m on an annualised basis.

Starling added that operating costs for October were £8.1m, with only a 30% increase in the past year. Fixed costs have increased around 15% in the past year while revenue has increased 400%.

The average balance in retail accounts stands at £1,625, with £14,900 for business accounts and £3,100 for sole trader accounts.

It has recently launched chargeable subscription features such as the SME Toolkit and Kite card for children. While there has been strong uptake of these products, Starling said they are still a small contribution to operating income relative to interest income and “present further upside to revenues and profitability in the future”.

In a blog post, CEO and founder, Anne Boden wrote: “We continue to respond with new products and extra support. We’ve learned new and better ways of working in this most unusual and difficult of years. I fully expect there will be long-term improvements to the world of work in banking and elsewhere once a new kind of normality resumes.

“I’m equally certain we will become a formidable competitor in the European banking market as we gear up to scale across Europe. We’ve never ‘bought’ customers with cash incentives, or promotions. We don’t have jazzy metal cards and we don’t offer ‘perks’ such as access to premium airport lounges. Customers join us for the features that help them manage their money and their businesses in a more effective way.

“Starling is winning more customers than any other UK bank through the Current Account Switch Service. In the second quarter of the year, we recorded the highest switching gains of any bank in the UK with nearly 12,000 customers switching to us on a net basis. We’ve also topped the Which? customer satisfaction table for 2020 with an overall score of 88% and recommended provider status for the second year in the row.”

Digital challenger Revolut, one of the world’s highest valued fintechs, reported an annual loss of £106.5m in 2019, up from £32.8m in 2018. Meanwhile, Monzo reported a loss of £113.8m for 2019/20, more than double the figure reported in the previous year.

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