“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:
- Leadership as Stewardship: Oh Captain, My Captain . . .
- What Ever Happened to Accountability?
- Let’s Make a Deal . . . “Negotiated Justice”
- Which is harder, a financial turnaround or a moral turnaround?
- The Culture of Banking is Broken . . . An Example
- Something’s “fishy” in big banks . . .
- Too Big to Fail? or Too Big to Succeed?
- Why Banks Should Focus on Culture Now More Than Ever!
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
I 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