Case study – Metro Bank

Tax hikes and reducing disposable incomes mean retailers are facing their toughest time in decades keeping customers loyal and spending. Staying ahead in the high street requires a major rethink of traditional strategies and systems. Find out how new high street bank, Metro Bank, hopes to outshine its rivals below.

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A new high street bank is aiming to take smart service to heart, and will launch in London’s Holborn on 29 July. Unlike its rivals, Metro Bank will open seven days a week and until 8pm during the week.

It will have a 15-minute account opening service where people will get their permanent, working credit and debit cards.

In addition there will be public toilets, lollipops for children and biscuits for dogs. In effect, Metro Bank is trying to rewrite the rules of banking by calling itself a retailer with “stores” rather than branches.

Chairman and co-founder Anthony Thomson says profit will be a byproduct of good customer service. And customer service will be the foundation of the business.

He says: “If you look at great retailers, invariably they grow their own culture. The Apples or Home Depots of this world don’t do it by acquisition. You can’t acquire and grow great businesses,” he says.

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See the Metro Bank’s Anthony Thomson appear at The Annual, Marketing Week’s new conference on 29 September 2010

His approach is three-pronged: focusing on the business model, culture and execution. “Great retail businesses have a clear model and ours is based on giving the customer a better experience.

“The culture is finding people to help deliver that model. Then the execution is about being fanatical about detail,” he says.

The bank won’t be trying to push customers online or to call centres to save money, Thomson claims. “Existing banks have said that it is too expensive to service customers in store, and that they’d rather do it by phone or on the internet because that is cheaper. Our view is: you are the customer, you decide how you want to bank with us. We are always trying to create reasons for customers to interact with us so we can give them a better service experience,” he says.

Thomson is so confident of his model that he has not researched it. “The experience will be very different to what people have experienced before. I’m often asked by marketing people what research I have done into how people view this type of banking. And I’ve said ‘none at all’, because people’s only term of reference is their own bank,” he says.

He insists that toilets and dog biscuits are not gimmicks and that he won’t mind if non-customers come in to use these facilities. He laughs: “Who cares? ‘But we might get people who are not customers coming in’ is exactly what a bank would say. Why should I care if they come in? They might tell their friends and get a bank account.”

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