Profiles in Leadership . . . Metro Bank and Vernon Hill

broken bank

“I walk around all day trying to prevent my colleagues turning us into a bank”  ~Anthony Thomson, Chairman and Co-Founder, Metro Bank

As you may have deduced from my blogs over the past several years, I am not a fan of big banks.  On the contrary, fundamentally I believe they are broken, and broken on many levels: leadership, culture, customer satisfaction, sustainability, adding value to the economy, IT systems.  You name it, just about every function and activity of big banking is out of step with modern business models.  Just to remind you, here are some of my past blogs on big banking:

But there is hope, and not just blind hope, that banking will get better and return to its roots of friendly and helpful branches and managers who know their customers and care about them.  The hope comes from a new “start-up” bank in the UK, Metro Bank, the brain child of Vernon Hill.

Vernon Hill is a remarkable man and definitely not your typical banker, thank goodness.  Vernon is more a retail shop owner in his approach to customer service and banking than the traditional “Masters of the Universe” we are all too familiar with at the top of big banks (Bob Diamond at Barclay, Sir Fred Goodman at RBS, Dick Fuld of Lehmans).  What makes Vernon Hill remarkable is that he has brought this “customer first and foremost philosophy” to banking in one of the most corporate and callous banking markets in the world, metropolitan New York.

Vernon founded Commerce Bancorp as a retail bank in the New York Metropolitan region and grew it impressively, joining the Forbes 20-20-20 Club.  Members of the 20-20-20 Club are chief executives who’ve held the top job for 20 years at a company with publicly traded shares for at least 20 years, who have presided over at least a 20% annual return since the company went public.  Vernon shares this honour with the likes of Warren Buffet, Leslie Wexner, Larry Ellison and very few others.


Metro is oriented to drive volume, differentiation and customer advocacy, including:

  • Longer opening hours, including evenings and weekends; opening ten minutes earlier and later than advertised hours
  • Open an account immediately (at most banks you have to make an appointment to open an account, plus give them your first-born child – just kidding)
  • Removing glass from teller booths for a more open customer experience
  • Pet-friendly policies
  • Giveaways such as lollipops and dog biscuits
  • Free use of coin-counting machines
  • Handing out pens in response to rival banks’ practice of chaining pens to desks
  • “Kill the stupid rule” program, whereby employees who suggested an alternative to a stupid rule were paid a cash bonus

fansI am currently reading Vernon Hill’s new book, FANS! not customers, and it is very different thinking from traditional banking.  It’s also very inspiring.  Next stop, a visit to one of the London area Metro Bank branches, then opening an account.  Let’s see if they can supersatisfy an old crusty like me!

Tight Lines . . .

John R Childress

About johnrchildress

John Childress is a pioneer in the field of strategy execution, culture change, executive leadership and organization effectiveness, author of several books and numerous articles on leadership, an effective public speaker and workshop facilitator for Boards and senior executive teams. In 1978 John co-founded The Senn-Delaney Leadership Consulting Group, the first international consulting firm to focus exclusively on culture change, leadership development and senior team alignment. Between 1978 and 2000 he served as its President and CEO and guided the international expansion of the company. His work with senior leadership teams has included companies in crisis (GPU Nuclear – owner of the Three Mile Island Nuclear Plants following the accident), deregulated industries (natural gas pipelines, telecommunications and the breakup of The Bell Telephone Companies), mergers and acquisitions and classic business turnaround scenarios with global organizations from the Fortune 500 and FTSE 250 ranks. He has designed and conducted consulting engagements in the US, UK, Europe, Middle East, Africa, China and Asia. Currently John is an independent advisor to CEO’s, Boards, management teams and organisations on strategy execution, corporate culture, leadership team effectiveness, business performance and executive development. John was born in the Cascade Mountains of Oregon and eventually moved to Carmel Highlands, California during most of his business career. John is a Phi Beta Kappa scholar with a BA degree (Magna cum Laude) from the University of California, a Masters Degree from Harvard University and was a PhD candidate at the University of Hawaii before deciding on a career as a business entrepreneur in the mid-70s. In 1968-69 he attended the American University of Beirut and it was there that his interest in cultures, leadership and group dynamics began to take shape. John Childress resides in London and the south of France with his family and is an avid flyfisherman, with recent trips to Alaska, the Amazon River, Tierra del Fuego, and Kamchatka in the far east of Russia. He is a trustee for Young Virtuosi, a foundation to support talented young musicians. You can reach John at or
This entry was posted in consulting, corporate culture, John R Childress, leadership, Organization Behavior, strategy execution and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s