The first new high-street bank to launch in the UK in more than 100 years opened its fourth branch recently in Borehamwood.
Metro Bank is the brainchild of Vernon Hill and promises its customers an escape route from high-street apathy and confusing products. If you open an account, you could even get a toaster.
It does not claim to be a serious challenger by volume to the high-street banks, nor has it revealed its thoughts on mortgage intermediation. It will probably get established as a niche bank that offers a small group of customers a differentiated service.
There are some smart ideas, such as offering a replacement debit card within three minutes, and there seems to be a true desire to deliver excellent customer service. The products are achingly simp-listic – a flat rate for credit and savings products, with no complicated extras.
But despite the clarity offered by Metro, it is extremely likely, if a little regrettable, that most consumers will stick with what they know. When it comes to banks, consumers need to know bills will get paid, money will come out of the cash machine and everything will work seamlessly and as expected. Exceptional customer service is nice to have, as long as you know your card will work when you are doing your weekly shopping.
Vernon Hill obviously knows his market, having set up Commerce Bank across the Atlantic some years ago. He has assembled a team of industry stalwarts who want to make a difference.
Metro Bank is offering the intermediary market a signpost towards where the industry could be heading.
In the current atmosphere of financial distrust and cynicism, we need to give our customers every chance to trust us and not to pigeonhole us with the banks they think so little of. Our expertise and experience of a complicated market can help so many people and we need to make sure we give the right impression to these customers. Setting a Metro-like objective of differentiated customer service is a great starting point.
The selling points of Metro Bank and an expert intermediary are much the same. They can both offer something different to what the public is used to.
Rob Clifford is director of If I Were You