Starling Bank: Enhancing data-driven decision-making with BigQuery

About Starling Bank

Starling Bank is one of the first mobile-only personal, business, and joint account banks in the United Kingdom. It gives customers the ability to manage their money from an app, while also providing access to a marketplace of complementary financial products and services. Starling also has a B2B banking services offering.

Industries: Financial Services
Location: United Kingdom

Starling Bank turned terabytes of data into real-time, actionable insights that improved customer interactions at scale, using the analytical processing power of BigQuery.

Google Cloud Results

  • Rapidly responds to customers' needs with features based on insights from BigQuery
  • Enables real-time notification of transactions and their locations with Google Maps APIs
  • Analyzes many terabytes of data at speed and scale with a serverless data warehousing infrastructure

Helps customers keep track of what they spend and where

Starling Bank was one of the first UK banks to launch mobile-only personal, joint, and business accounts. The Starling team built the bank from scratch using world-class technology with the aim of helping people manage their money, all from one app. Since launching in app stores in May 2017, Starling has introduced trailblazing money management tools such as automatic categorization of spending, a goals tool to transfer money into savings, and in-app overdraft controls.

"As a growing business, making the correct decision is an art. We are highly efficient at maximizing our resources. We do all that in a data-driven way, so BigQuery enables all of that."

John Mountain, CIO, Starling Bank

As a customer-centered organization, Starling Bank wanted to get the best insights from its growing wealth of usage data and deliver the best service possible. To do that, it turned to BigQuery as a solution to analyze massive amounts of customer data. "As a growing business, making the correct decision is an art," says John Mountain, CIO at Starling Bank. "We are highly efficient at maximizing our resources. We do all that in a data-driven way, so BigQuery enables all of that."

Granular information, easy access with BigQuery

All banks collect and analyze anonymized data on their services, to establish how their accounts are being used, and how often. Being mobile-only gives Starling Bank the opportunity to take advantage of more granular information, such as merchant location data, to help provide more convenient services for its customers. The bank considers itself a tech company as much as a financial institution. Staff are empowered to analyze and interrogate anonymized data, look for solutions, and add value to the business without needing to rely on an analytics team. So when it looked for an analytics solution, accessibility was as much of a priority as raw power.

"We looked at other analytics tools and found that we still had to manage infrastructure. The beauty of BigQuery is its simplicity. You can create a table, pump data in, and build off that. That and the speed, scalability, and reliability meant that BigQuery was the only viable solution."

John Mountain, CIO, Starling Bank

After evaluating its options, BigQuery provided the most compelling solution for Starling Bank. BigQuery could handle large amounts of data very efficiently, which was essential for real-time updates in the mobile app. Starling Bank also saw huge potential benefits in integrating BigQuery with other Google Cloud analytics tools like Firebase and Firebase Crashlytics. As a cloud-based solution, it reduced the management overhead for the bank's IT team while the straightforward web interface meant there was no need to build any special layers for non-technical staff. BigQuery simplified the process more than any of the alternatives Starling Bank evaluated.

"We looked at other analytics tools and found that we still had to manage infrastructure," says John. "The beauty of BigQuery is its simplicity. You can create a table, pump data in, and build off that. That and the speed, scalability, and reliability meant that BigQuery was the only viable solution."

In addition to Google Cloud products, Starling Bank uses Google Maps APIs to improve the banking experience and make life even easier for its customers. Google Maps enables the bank to show its customers the geographical location of where they have been spending their money, with two million retailers currently recorded. This allows customers to keep better track of their finances, or even spot fraudulent transactions.

"Customers are at the heart of what we do. BigQuery enables us to query real-time transactional data in order to drive decision-making, ultimately resulting in a product that evolves with our customers and their emerging needs."

Harriet Rees, Director of Data Science, Starling Bank

Turning insight to action, scaling with success

With Google Cloud Platform (GCP), Starling Bank has improved its service as it grows. Merchant identification and real-time notifications with Google Maps APIs mean that customers can easily find out who they have paid, as well as when and where. With BigQuery driving its analytics, the bank has been able to see how its products are being used and respond to its customers' needs effectively, meaning that all product development is informed and prioritized based on customer behavior.

"Customers are at the heart of what we do," explains Harriet Rees, Director of Data Science at Starling Bank. "BigQuery enables us to query real-time transactional data in order to drive decision-making, ultimately resulting in a product that evolves with our customers and their emerging needs."

In addition, thanks to Starling's Open Banking-compliant APIs, third-party developers can integrate with this technology to provide a wide range of financial products and services — from insurance to investment platforms — to the bank's customers. Starling Bank has also begun exploring the hosting capabilities of GCP, running containerized applications with open-source Kubernetes and Google Kubernetes Engine, to build cross-cloud resilience and avoid dependence on any one cloud provider.

For a fast-growing financial institution, sustainable scalability is key to its success. The Google Cloud serverless infrastructure automatically scales to accommodate Starling Bank's needs and allows its team to quickly and simultaneously analyze data regardless of size or the number of users. With GCP, Starling Bank has found a solution for today that provides a solid foundation for tomorrow.

As Starling Bank expands and adds even more data, its journey with Google is not yet over. One of 10 companies selected for Google's applied machine learning Launchpad Studio, Starling Bank is working on a range of pilot projects using Google Cloud AI and Machine Learning products to analyze transactions and improve customer experience. With help from Google and its own expertise, Starling Bank aims to integrate its insights on transaction behavior into future product releases, improving operational efficiency and customer satisfaction.

About Starling Bank

Starling Bank is one of the first mobile-only personal, business, and joint account banks in the United Kingdom. It gives customers the ability to manage their money from an app, while also providing access to a marketplace of complementary financial products and services. Starling also has a B2B banking services offering.

Industries: Financial Services
Location: United Kingdom