Tom Blomfield launched Monzo, the digital-only bank, in 2015. It is now worth £1bn. But he walked away from the business at the start of the year, after he realised running the business had taken its toll on his mental health. Here, he talks to MT about what he learned from his time at the top, and what he's planning to do next.
I stepped down as CEO in January 2020 and then left fully in February of this year. Right now, I’m technically unemployed, which is great. I don’t miss having a diary that’s packed out from 8am to 8pm. When I decided to leave, it felt like a physical weight had been lifted. As CEO, I never switched off. I found it impossible to stop thinking about the latest problem. I stopped sleeping. The pressure was exacerbated by lots of press attention and the increased responsibility that comes as you scale. And then Covid hit – and that was the straw that broke the camel’s back. We were supposed to close a £100m investment round and the investors pulled the term sheets as we went into lockdown. We lost 50% of our revenue overnight and had to make redundancies. That’s when I spoke to the board and said I need to make some changes. It didn’t come as a surprise: we had been discussing this move for 18 months. But my chairman had always said: “Maybe in two years. Let’s figure out how to reconfigure your role so you’re not doing three jobs at once.”
The highlights of my time at Monzo
There have been so many wonderful moments that it’s hard to choose just one. The first is when Eileen [Burbidge], an investor in the business from Passion Capital and a board member, was sent a prototype card and she used it to take out cash. We had written code that would actually make money come out of ATMs. That was a wow moment. The second was the first time I saw our hot coral Monzo card out in the wild. It was in a café and a stranger was paying for coffee. The cashier said “I haven’t seen one of these before” and the Monzo customer was really effusive about how great it was. I couldn’t stop smiling. But, overall, I’m most proud of all the work we did in debt management, helping people pay down their debt and find financial freedom. I know we helped hundreds of thousands of people but somehow it’s all about the people you get to know. One guy, Danny Cheetham, used our gambling block feature to manage his gambling addiction and managed to get debt-free using our tools. We still talk every few months and he’s doing really well with a great job.