Fired Barclays CEO turns £1m into £600m start-up

LONDON (BLOOMBERG) – In an office not far from the Houses of Parliament, Antony Jenkins is plotting the future of global banking. His ambition is to serve one tenth of the world’s population – or one billion people – by providing the technology behind everything from checking savings to loans.

Mr Jenkins’ business, 10x Banking Technology, is a player in London’s burgeoning fintech scene. It was valued at about £600 million (S$1.02 billion) at its most recent funding about a year ago, with Mr Jenkins’ own stake worth £200 million. Among its backers are JPMorgan Chase & Co, Blackrock and Ping An Insurance Group.

Last year the firm raised £133 million from investors. The fresh funds helped cushion it against losses that roughly doubled to £43.7 million in 2021 and gave Mr Jenkins the cash to expand when market turmoil is making fund-raisings for other fintechs tough.

In contrast to the 20 or 30-somethings seeking to make their mark in fintech, Mr Jenkins is the 60-year-old former chief executive officer of Barclay. After a turbulent three years when he received the nickname “Saint Antony” for his attempt to reform its culture, he was ignominiously ousted in 2015.

The forced departure from Barclays was a “shock” that took some time to get over, but also a “liberation,” according to Mr Jenkins. In the months after his sacking, he ruminated on the germ of an idea that had consumed him through the decades he spent first at Citigroup and then Barclays: why is the technology inside big banks so bad?

Man in black

Mr Jenkins, dressed in a black shirt, black jeans and black shoes – a different look from that the one he sported as a member of Barclays’ top brass – explains how he went from banking reject to fintech evangelist.

He was approached about other mainstream roles after Barclays, but instead began sketching a business plan on a flipchart in his dining room. “I’ve always had an entrepreneurial leaning,” he says.

Working with a small group of close associates, in 2016 Mr Jenkins launched 10x with £1 million of his own money, initially to see if anyone would support his ideas about how banks could be made better. The company’s name stands for the belief that for financial firms to adopt a new technology it has to be 10 times better than what they already have.

Chinese insurance group Ping An – now in the news for its campaign to break up HSBC – was one of his first investors, the result of a 2017 meeting between Mr Jenkins and Jonathan Larsen, another former Citigroup executive.

Months after their meeting, Mr Larsen joined Ping An and was charged with creating a strategic corporate venture fund to look for opportunities in fintech and other areas. An investment in 10x became the Ping An fund’s first deal.

“I felt it was trying to tackle the problem head on,” Mr Larsen, who is today a director of 10x, told Bloomberg News. “The company is poised for scaling. There are probably 3,000 banks out there that need to transform their technology.”

Grand ambitions

In the latest accounts, filed in May, Mr Jenkins gave an idea of his ambitions: 10x can ultimately provide the technology that “reliably underpins the service of a billion banking customers”.

He has plenty of rivals. Thought Machine Group, another London-based banking technology start-up, has attracted big name clients and investors and recently raised more than US$100 million (S$139 million) at a valuation of US$2.7 billion. 10x also faces competition from incumbent technology providers ranging from Switzerland’s Temenos to Oracle.