Based at Monzo’s headquarters, a stone’s throw from Liverpool Street station in London, its managing director, TS Anil, unknowingly challenges fintech stereotypes.
Although he may have traded in the suit and tie for blue jeans when he took over as digital bank helmer in 2020, he has an air of unassuming professionalism that might be more at home in the office. London neighbor of NatWest than a unicorn startup trying to disrupt the industry. .
It’s partly the product of almost 27 years in the industry, spanning big names like Citi, Standard Chartered and Visa in markets like India, Japan and the United States, which makes him one of the most experienced bosses at the helm of a UK fintech company. And unlike his closest rivals at Starling and Revolut, he’s the only non-founder to lead one of the first waves of Britain’s so-called neobanks, signaling that startups once at the forefront of the capital may be starting to mature.
Seven years after its founding in 2015, Monzo has grown from a scrappy newcomer attracting millennials with its slick app and bright pink prepaid debit card to a fully licensed bank with over £4.4billion in deposits.
It has yet to turn a profit, but following in the footsteps of its two closest competitors, Monzo aims to break even on a monthly basis later this year as Anil forecasts a further increase in revenue, from £79m for the year to February 2021.
The company was last valued at $4.5bn (£3.4bn), after raising $600m late last year. While that’s still a far cry from Revolut’s $33 billion, Anil says he’s heartened by the number of active users among his 5.7 million customers, about 3 million of whom open the app 17 to 18 times a week.
As rumors of an IPO continue to fly, Anil, predictably, is tempering expectations. “Look, we’re going to do a big public company one day,” he says, quickly adding that any decision on an IPO has been pushed back to 2023 at the earliest. In the meantime, Monzo must keep pace with the new, and not-so-new, kids in the neighborhood – launching a buy-it-now-pay-later facility last year after Swedish fintech Klarna squeezed its way into the market. and building an investment product nearly a year after JP Morgan bought digital wealth manager Nutmeg as part of its UK retail banking expansion.
But Anil says the real competition comes from older UK banks, including HSBC, Lloyds, NatWest and Barclays, which still hold around 85% of the retail banking market. “So while we may feel like our competitors are other fintech players, the reality is that the vast majority of revenue and customers are still with incumbents,” he says.
Although Anil hopes to disrupt the industry with new products and services, he admits he didn’t think about the impact he himself would have before taking the job. When appointed in 2020, the Indian-born leader became one of the first people of color to run a UK bank, injecting much-needed diversity into a sector long known to be ‘masculine, stale and pale’ , even with the new wave of fintechs shaking up the industry.
However, Monzo bosses have a knack for going against the grain. First, founder Tom Blomfield upended the cliché of the superhuman tech boss when he spoke about the toll Monzo’s management had had on his mental health over the past year. It was the stress that caused him to step back as managing director, installing Anil in his place, before leaving the company entirely in 2021. His comments sparked new conversations about work-life balance and helped normalize discussions about anxiety and burnout among founders.
Family Wife and two sons, plus extended family and friends around the world.
Education College and trade school in India.
Pay £500,000 per year.
Last holidays A rainy weekend in Lisbon last month.
Best advice ever given “It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.”
Biggest Career Mistake “Every time I let myself be in a comfort zone longer than I should have!”
Word(s) he abuses “Impact” and “substantial”.
how he relaxes Dinner with family and friends; read and listen to music as much as possible.
For Anil, it took a private message from a Monzo colleague of color, thanking him for accepting the job, to understand how he was influencing the industry. “Honestly, until then, I hadn’t thought of that,” says Anil. “I grew up in a country where everyone was a person of color. And that’s a crazy point of privilege — because you don’t realize you’re different.
He describes his childhood as idyllic. Growing up on military bases across India, where her father served in the army, “life was wonderful; we lived in this relatively sheltered and safe environment.” But the evils of the world were never far away. In 1971, the year Anil was born, his father was sent to fight in the Indo-Pakistani War which eventually led to independence for Bangladesh. And with her mother’s career in social work, the realities of extreme poverty were on her doorstep.
He remembers one morning in his early teens when his mother took him on a detour while he was out shopping. “I went with her to the slum where one of the children she looked after was terminally ill with cancer. He had called that morning from a phone booth to say look, come see me today. He didn’t, of course. But that was only part of his day.
Anil credits these experiences with shaping his worldview, but admits his career in finance was completely “accidental”. He was recruited for a job at Citi right out of college, while his brother followed in their father’s military footsteps and joined the Navy.
He first aspired to be a doctor before recognizing a passion for writing poetry and fiction that he shyly admits to having continued to cultivate. “This dream isn’t over yet,” he says, before quickly changing the subject and discussing his current reading, Sally Rooney’s Beautiful world, where are you.
It’s no surprise that Anil has become known for buying his immediate team books for Christmas every year, although it may be some time before he distributes his own prose to Monzo staff.