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Exclusive: ‘The Powerful Publicist’ – Alexandra Frean, Starling Bank in “Swashbucklers 2020”

Alexandra Frean and Helene Panzarino | Fintech Finance

It took us three attempts to convince the noble Alexandra Frean that she was, indeed, one of our Swashbucklers for 2020. That’s one of the refreshing things about Frean. She’s modest and she questions decisions. We didn’t expect to have to hold ourselves to account, but we loved it. But best of all, Frean is devastatingly good at what she does. As Head of Corporate Affairs for Starling Bank, longstanding journalist and all-round legend, we’re delighted to name Alexandra Frean as our next brave and adventurous Swashbuckler. Alexandra Frean, Starling Bank | Fintech Finance

Being a bad-ass journalist and a fintech superstar

Frean’s career has been nothing short of dazzling. Working as a journalist for The Times, she’s held seriously important roles in Washington, New York and London. After 25 years, she jumped ship and joined the exciting world of fintech. Yay for us! In 2018, she hopped aboard Starling Bank, and we can’t help but notice how much the brand has grown since then. The blogs, the campaigns, that tear-jerker of a shed advert… we can’t get enough. 

When we caught up with Frean, she listed this dual-career among her top achievements. Quite right! We asked about her other top achievements too.  “Interviewing Dolly Parton and David Bowie (not at the same time, sadly)”, she pinged back. “[And] bringing up two sons who constantly surprise me with the things they teach me about life”. Solid answers there. Is anyone else now imaging how a Parton-Bowie collab would go? We’re getting psychedelic space cowboy vibes. Nice.

Using her skills for good

We asked Frean about her proudest moment in fintech to date. True to form, she highlighted the customer-centric work Starling has done in the pandemic. And she didn’t take the credit. There’s being good at your job, and then there’s Alexandra Frean. “Top of this list for me would be the Starling’s Connected Card”, she explains. “When the first lockdown happened … we thought about what we could do at Starling to be relevant and useful during the crisis. So we developed the Connected Card for people who were self-isolating…It was a team effort to build this, communicate it to the world and get it endorsed by the Royal Voluntary Society for use by NHS Volunteers”.

Frean’s not new to volunteering. In the US and UK, she’s done a lot of work to help refugees get back on their feet. “In the UK, I am a volunteer host with Refugees at Home, aims to put a roof over the heads of asylum seekers and refugees”, she explains. We’re going to level with you here, she’s done a hell of a lot more than that, but we just don’t have the word count. 

What’s next?

We asked this powerful publicist what’s next on the horizon. Not one to disappoint, Frean fired back with this gem, “I joined Starling after more than 30 years in journalism and did the big pivot into PR in my mid-50s, so I’m living proof that it’s never too late to embark on a new adventure. I’m sure there’ll be plenty more life and career projects coming up, I’m just not sure what they are – pastry chef? cabinet maker? novelist? I’m only at the beginning” …  Did anyone else get shivers then? Welcome to the crew Frean!


This article was published in Swashbucklers 2020, Page 12

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