Starling criticised for Qatari funding despite anti-fossil fuel stance

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Starling Bank has been criticised for accepting funding from Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund despite its longstanding opposition to fossil fuels.

The challenger bank announced last week that it had raised money from the Qatar Investment Authority (QIA) as part of a £272m funding round that brought its valuation to £1.1bn.

The country’s sovereign wealth fund was set up in 2005 to invest Qatar’s substantial oil and natural gas revenues around the world. Money from the trade of oil and natural gas accounts for more than 70pc of the government of Qatar’s revenues.

Anne Boden, the company’s chief executive, wrote in an open letter published online last year that “we do not invest in or take investment from any fossil-fuel based energy companies.”

The start-up has since 2019 expressed its opposition to fossil fuels in a series of posts on Twitter, including in messages to potential customers who asked for information on its ethical stances.

Lynn James, a customer of Starling Bank and a writer who runs the Mrs Mummypenny website, was reassured by the start-up last year that it doesn’t take any investment from fossil fuel energy companies.

Ms James is now considering switching her business bank account away from Starling Bank after learning about the investment from the QIA. 

“With this news I now feel disappointed,” she said. “Previous promises obviously mean nothing to the business, and money/funding, no matter where it comes from, trumps everything.”

A spokesman for Starling Bank said that “one of the key roles of QIA is to reduce Qatar’s dependence on revenues derived from oil and gas and to expand investment into non-hydrocarbon sectors. That’s one reason why it has been investing in a range of well-known British brands in addition to Starling.”