UK: Creating Fans, Not Customers

Last Updated: 13 November 2013
Article by Smith & Williamson

Vernon Hill, chairman and founder of Metro Bank, provides an insight into the bank's unique business model and rapid success.

Metro Bank is a revolutionary UK high street bank. We've grown at an incredible rate since our launch in July 2010. With more than 950 colleagues, 21 stores, over 230,000 business and personal customer accounts, and a billion in deposits, we are truly demonstrating that the British public is desperate for a real banking alternative.

Customer relationships

The experience of building Metro Bank has been nothing short of exhilarating. As the only high street bank to launch from scratch in more than 100 years, we've had to break through a century of resistance in Britain's financial environment. Now, three years on, we are often asked about the strategy and organisational challenges behind our rapid growth. A large part of our success is due to the fact that we treat banking like any other customer service industry and we regularly compare ourselves to other successful retail brands. To us, customer relationships are everything. This is dramatically different from the traditional British banking model which views the customer solely as a target for more product sales.

Converting customers into fans

Metro Bank is based on the hugely successful US-based Commerce Bank model and the ultimate realisation of everything I learned over my three decades of building the Commerce brand. Commerce Bank opened its doors in 1973 with just nine employees and by 2007 it was a major American bank, with 440 stores across six states and 16,000 team members. Its success was based on the simple concept that customers should be the cornerstone of any business – if you treat your customers with the respect they deserve by providing the highest level of service and convenience, then you'll turn them into fans of your brand.

The emphasis is the same at Metro Bank. We offer banking that provides unparalleled levels of service and convenience to our customers. Through our unique customer-focused business we are reinventing the rules of retail banking, making every effort to remove all stupid bank rules from our services in order to make things simpler and more convenient.

Three core pillars of success

Metro Bank's success is built on three core pillars. The first is having a differentiated model, which is built around the needs of the customer rather than the needs of the bank. The second is having a strong workplace culture, which aligns to the model. And the third is relentless execution.

Metro Bank's unique model has a singular vision – we exist to provide excellent customer service. Defining your vision is the first step for anyone, whether you're a high street retailer or a professional services organisation. So many organisations struggle with unnecessary procedures that are in place simply because that's the way they always have been. You must believe in your model in order to grow!

Our motto is "no stupid bank rules", which means that we design every procedure around what works for our customers, rather than what suits us. Every business leader must ask themselves a key question: "Are my services designed to suit me or my customers?" Our stores are open seven days a week, which demonstrates our commitment to customers – we're open at their convenience, not ours. And our call centres never close, with team members answering customer questions and solving problems 24/7. This is in addition to full internet banking services. Our customers can bank with us however they choose to. After all, we are here to serve them.

It's impossible to overstate the importance of culture for Metro Bank – it's our social fabric, our DNA. Our culture matches our model and is widespread through the organisation. It's the spirit that enables our company to excel. It's absolutely essential that culture supports the business model. We've all seen examples where an organisation says one thing, but the culture contradicts that model. Pretty much every bank in the UK says that it wants to give great customer service, yet frontline staff are incentivised with sales targets. This isn't the case at Metro Bank and our staff are rewarded based on the service they provide to customers. We live or die by the service we provide. Finally, model and culture must be supported by impeccable execution. To create fans, you have to build an emotional brand that you're enthusiastic about. Service, delivery, design, look, appeal and the execution of the brand are our central focal points. Our cultural training is ongoing and our execution is relentless. Colleagues live and breathe our culture, and they're empowered to offer great service to customers.

"To create fans, you have to build an emotional brand that you're enthusiastic about."

Lessons learnt

The important lessons that we learnt when building the Metro Bank model, and continue to learn every day, can be applied to any business. No one needs another 'me too' bank or company. Successful businesses come from differentiated, value-added models. Great companies create business models that produce emotional brands and turn customers into followers or fans.

We have taken great care to ensure the accuracy of this newsletter. However, the newsletter is written in general terms and you are strongly recommended to seek specific advice before taking any action based on the information it contains. No responsibility can be taken for any loss arising from action taken or refrained from on the basis of this publication. © Smith & Williamson Holdings Limited 2013. code 13/949 exp: 30/04/2014

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