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Steve's ITK: Who owns your favourite challenger bank?


Steve's ITK

August 28 · Issue #30 · View online

Steve's In The Know: Everything I published recently, commentary you won't find elsewhere, write-ups of events I attended or spoke at, and industry rumours.

A screen shot from Starling's Companies House filing
A screen shot from Starling's Companies House filing
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Opening thought: Who owns your favourite challenger bank?
As a bit of an old-timer journalist – twice in my career I’ve been publicly called a veteran, the first time was in 2007 by Mike Arrington! – I’ve long dug into Companies House filings to look for additional information on a startup. This includes who the listed shareholders and directors are and invariably how much money a company has lost. 
Sometimes purely by luck, a good Companies House spelunking can produce curious results, most of which don’t make it into a story, such as a few years ago when I discovered which startup got dropped from Demo Day by Entrepreneur First and called up Matt Clifford to his bewilderment.
Other times, it produces a whole article in itself, such as when I broke the news that dating app Bumble is majority-owned by Badoo or that Revolut recently took venture debt from Triplepoint Capital to bridge its next funding round.
With that said – and despite it being easier to track regulatory filings in the UK since Companies House (annoyingly) introduced alerts – it can also lead to a lot of false positives, especially since a startup’s ownership isn’t always reflected transparently by a filing after you factor in holding companies and stock options and such.
A recent gander into Starling Bank’s Companies House records turned up an interesting, although not wholly remarkable, tidbit regards who is listed as “Persons with significant control” of the challenger bank.
It is widely known that hedge fund manager Harald Mcpike is Starling’s main backer – he’s personally invested a large chunk of the £48m Starling has raised – so perhaps it isn’t surprising that he is listed as having ownership of shares of more than 50% but less than 75% and ownership of voting rights of more than 50% but less than 75%. However, it isn’t something I had considered previously.
In contrast, Anne Boden, Starling’s very public founder, is listed as having ownership of voting rights of “more than 25% but not more than 50%”. Again, it’s not unheard of for a startup that has raised as much as Starling has but it is noteworthy nonetheless.
This of course got me thinking (and doing a little more digging) into what we know about the ownership and backers of other UK challenger banks. Remember, they are all fiercely competitive after all.
First was Monzo, which has raised a total of around £35 million. It is well-known that Passion Capital was an early investor and had to set up a special vehicle (called a “sidecar fund” in VC speak) because it was prohibited from investing out of its main fund in a company that lends and/or a bank (due to rules stipulated by the UK tax payer funded BBB, a main LP of Passional Capital’s first fund).
As is pretty standard, I understand that all of Passion’s existing LPs were given the chance to invest in the resulting sidecar fund to get in on the Monzo action. Companies House’s latest filing lists Passion as having ownership of shares of more than 25% but not more than 50%. 
Another fun tidbit: one of Monzo’s other main backers is Thrive Capital, the fund founded by Joshua Kushner, brother of Jared Kushner, who is Donald Trump’s son in law!
Next was Atom, which is backed by Spanish banking giant BBV. Unsurprisingly, Companies House lists BBV as having both ownership of shares and ownership of voting rights of more than 25% but not more than 50%.
That just leaves Ricky Knox’s Tandem, which is backed by the likes of Route 66, eVentures and the Omidyar Network, the investment fund founded by eBay’s Pierre Omidyar. Companies House lists Route 66 as having ownership of voting rights of more than 25% but not more than 50%.
One huge caveat: It could be that any of the above is already out of date as Companies House has a lag between filings, and it’s quite possible I’ve missed something significant.
Finally, does it matter who owns your favourite challenger bank? Is it even newsworthy? Hit reply, I’d love to know what you think.
Things I wrote
Lilium, a German company building an electric ‘air taxi,’ makes key hires from Gett, Airbus and Tesla
Berlin-based Home is an app to help landlords manage properties and improve the rental experience
Acasa is building a platform for ‘Generation Rent’ to manage their homes
Online real estate agent eMoov picks up £9M backing
Codacy, a platform that helps developers check the quality of their code, raises $5.1M and Personal merge to put you in control of the nascent ‘personal data ecosystem’
London fintech Tail is a cashback platform built on the promise of Open Banking
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