You can hardly come out of Fulham Broadway and not notice the brightly coloured new Metro Bank on the corner where the bookshop used to be. Strong primary blue and red, open and spacious, high ceilings and shiny surfaces – the branch - or “store” as Metro call it – looks, feels and is different.
It’s been there a while now, as has the one on the corner of Earl’s Court Road – both outlets making a statement about Metro – the first new High Street bank in 100 years.
I went there last week for a networking evening and a chance to meet Metro CEO Craig Donaldson and I was absolutely bowled over.
Their advertising and publicity has done a good job in selling their key differences – open 7 days a week and on weekdays open 8am to 8pm. They use human beings to answer telephone calls (which they promise to answer quickly). If you open an account – personal or business they make the debit cards there and then – right in front of you. They also print the cheque books - again, there and then. They welcome you, your kids (coin counting and prizes!) and your dogs (they have a particular fondness for dogs who are welcomed with water bowls – if that doesn’t get my Mum shifting her business, nothing will).
But these are just features – the real reason I was bowled over is the sheer humanity of the place. The welcome is as warm as you would find in anywhere. The Fulham store is full of genuine smiles (a key part of the hiring policy according to Craig, the CEO). The staff are motivated and upbeat – they actually look like they are enjoying it. I spoke to a couple of them and apart from the excitement of being there when it’s all being created, they have a special love for the freedom that the policy of “No Stupid Bank Rules” has given them. Enshrined in the very fabric of the business is a desire to be different, to avoid the “computer says no” mentality and complacency of their competitors. They are encouraged to think customer first and to do things which don’t just “satisfy” their customers – like all excellent businesses, these people are out to delight the people they deal with
Metro is UK based and owned but was inspired by the US Commerce Bank - a hugely successful east coast business that grew like topsy as soon as customers discovered what being treated like an adult in a bank was actually like and developed a real taste for it.
This is truly a local bank – they talk about “Local Loans by Local Lenders” the staff live and work around here – the hugely motivated Business Account manager I chatted with spoke about business within walking distance of the branch and that it was her intention to get out there and meet local business people – and she meant it. There’s a clear determination (and all the appropriate backing) to take this business from its initial four branches to the 40+ they see in a short time period.
I used to work in the marketing side of banking – let’s call it BankyCorp to avoid upsetting them too much, even though it doesn’t matter because the taxpayer owns them now! I remember the depressing frequency that we used to get figures from the researchers saying that a significant proportion of people disliked the institution so much that if they felt they had a choice, would leave tomorrow. Our figure was 63%. That’s very nearly two thirds of our customers (and this was a very large bank) who would go tomorrow but who, in effect felt that they were held hostage by the system and who felt the disruption wouldn’t be worth the effort.
Craig made a similar point in his speech – about bank customers who perceive themselves to be hostages because, with so few alternatives, where else can they go?
All service businesses also ask their customers if they would recommend them to a friend or colleague. We used to ask that at BankyCorp and the data was barely significant enough to register on the charts. If we’d had a bad PR period, the number was sometimes less than 3%. That’s 97% of existing customers were soooo delighted with BankyCorp that they wouldn’t even recommend it to anyone (except perhaps their worst enemy).
And what about Metro Bank? The data Craig showed on Wednesday night was astonishing. A complete reversal of the market norm. If my notes are right - 98% of his customers already feel they can recommend the bank (and the prudent 2% only feel they can’t as the relationship is so fresh they feel they need to give it time)!
It’s a local bank, staffed by local people determined to give first class service to everyone and have fun doing it. It’s brand new, high tech and profoundly traditional. For all of the times you’ve heard about “something new in finance”, perhaps with customer satisfaction figures like this it really will become the 'new normal' that we've been yearning for.
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