Podcast 19 – David M. Brear, 11:FS

This week, Jamie talks to David Brear, CEO of 11:FS about the future of digital banking, the grit it takes to run a small business and start–up culture.

26 November 2019

Listen to episode 19:

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Show notes

David M. Brear

  • 11:FS is a fintech that look to rethink problems that exist in the financial industry.
  • They believe that digital banking is only 1% finished and that there are many more opportunities to come.
  • They currently have around 160 employees and are growing fast.
  • Founders of the company include those who have worked in big banks, as well as challenger banks such as Monzo and Starling.
  • They build the technology behind banks, create content to attract new audiences and much more.

Starting 11:FS

  • David knew he wanted to be his own boss, but worked in the financial industry in order to gain experience and find his niche.
  • He treated every job he worked in as a learning experience, developing his understandings that would inform his future plans.
  • So much of running a small business is about learning and developing and a lot of that is done through having an environment that encourages honesty among colleagues.
  • You don't have to be the smartest person in the room, but you do have to be the person who's willing to go the extra mile to make things work.
  • In 11:FS, 100% of David's time is spent moving the business forward.

The grit of small business owners

  • For those running small businesses, there is no plan B.
  • This drive to make things work is what allows small businesses and start–ups to succeed.
  • The beauty of running a small business is that you can be more efficient with your time.

11:YEARS financial crisis documentary

  • 11:FS recently produced a documentary called '11:YEARS' about what happened after the financial crisis.
  • Click here to watch the full documentary.
  • The freedom to be creative with the way 11:FS produces content is something that is really important to David.


  • 11:FS built 'Mettl' for NatWest, a business bank account tailored for the businesses of today.
  • Mettl is a challenger bank within a traditional banking organisation.
  • Big banks have clunky application processes that do not suit the needs of modern business owners and consumers.
  • The big difference between traditional banks and start–up banks is culture.
  • The start–up mentality is to do the most with the little that you have.

'Don't just do one thing'

  • Many start–up founders are told to just focus on one thing, but David disagrees with this advice
  • "If that thing turn out to be a dumb idea, you are screwed. It's the equivalent of going to a roulette table and putting all your money on one number."
  • Never turn down opportunity, you never know where it might lead
  • Master something as quickly as you can, operationalise it and then look to the next thing.
  • Create a culture that continually looks to evolve and improve, failure to do so can result in your business becoming redundant

Competition in the digital age

  • In the digital age, with a good website, voice and authenticity you can compete with anybody.
  • 11:FS competes with companies worth as much as £60m.
  • Don't just be a cheaper option, be better.

David's tips for small businesses

  • Make sure you know your industry: learn as much as you can about it from the inside, it will make your own business more powerful when you start it.
  • Be unique, bring something to the table that hasn't been done before.

The big biz whiz quiz

Brilliant or bonkers?

"We must not allow other people's limited perceptions to define us."

– Virginia Satir

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Jamie Maddison has written for a range of publications including Lonely Planet, Geographical, Diplomat, and Hidden Europe.

Article updated on: 24 March 2020

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