Metro Bank was founded only in early 2010, but the company’s fresh approach to financial services has shaken up the banking industry.

Here are five things retailers can learn from Metro Bank.

Differentiate yourself

Metro Bank might be the baby of the banking industry, but it is already rapidly closing in on one million account holders after creating the clear point of difference of working around the schedules of today’s busy consumers.

Its branches open from 8am until 8pm Monday to Friday, as well as all day Saturday and Sunday. It also opens on bank holidays, meaning it serves account holders 362 days a year.

Metro Bank's Earls Court branch

Metro Bank earls court

Metro Bank’s Earls Court branch

Customers who lose their debit or credit cards are given a replacement immediately, rather than facing a wait of up to five days to be sent a new one in the post, while all of its branches have coin-counting machines, allowing account-holders to sort and deposit change free of charge.

Create a company culture

Metro Bank has created a hard-working but enjoyable atmosphere in its branches and central office. Managing director of retail banking Iain Kirkpatrick says: “We take what we do very seriously, but we don’t take ourselves too seriously.”

A prime example of that mantra is the conga line that all new employees form at the bank’s head office on an almost weekly basis – an animated event that the business Periscopes live via its Twitter account.

“We hire people for their attitudes and then we train them for their skills. We want people who can connect with customers and empathise with customers”

Iain Kirkpatrick, Metro Bank

“We hire people for their attitudes and then we train them for their skills,” Kirkpatrick adds.

“We want people who can connect with customers and empathise with customers.”

In the same way that retailers are seeking to create a sense of theatre and focus on customer service to create loyalty, Metro Bank has formed a unique company culture and hired the right people in order to build valuable connections between its employees and customers.

Think like your customers

From the top down, Metro Bank has instilled a mindset within its workforce that encourages all staff to empathise with its customers.

Iain Kirkpatrick, MD of retail and customer experience at Metro Bank

Iain Kirkpatrick

Iain Kirkpatrick, MD of retail and customer experience at Metro Bank

“We always think: what would our customers like?” Kirkpatrick says.

Small customer service quirks, such as opening a branch at 7.50am rather than 8am if workers see an account holder standing outside in the cold or rain, go a long way to driving loyalty and customer satisfaction.

Customers don’t need to make an appointment to open a new account and those who join are given everything they need to get going immediately, including the Metro Bank smartphone app, a cheque book and their debit card, rather than facing a wait to receive items in the post.

Drive simplicity and convenience

Some banks offer a range of products and services that can often bamboozle customers, but Metro Bank keeps things simple.

It doesn’t sell insurance or investment products, but sticks to its bread and butter of current and savings accounts, loans and mortgages.

The full range of products and their rates are displayed clearly in branches, meaning customers aren’t left wondering if they are getting the best deal.

The company also prides itself on the simplicity of being able to open new bank accounts within 20 minutes.

In a world of time-pressed, promiscuous consumers, retailers could do worse than follow Metro Bank’s lead by keeping their proposition simple and focusing their attention on the areas they excel in.  

Do the right thing

Although it sees no tangible return on investment from some of its activities, Metro Bank sees wider merits in being an ethical company that considers local communities.

For instance, it promotes charities by giving account holders the option of donating a small amount of their savings to good causes, while it also plays a big role in educating youngsters.

This year it will take 25,000 nine- and 10-year-old children through its financial education programme, which involves Metro Bank ‘prefects’ going out to schools to run sessions in classrooms and its branches.

“If, as a business, you are doing the right thing, people tend to be bigger advocates of you and tell their friends and family about you”

Iain Kirkpatrick, Metro Bank

Furthermore, if account-holders adopt a dog or cat from Battersea Dogs & Cats Home, Metro Bank will refund rehoming costs of up to £105 for dogs or £65 for a cat.

“If, as a business, you are doing the right thing, people tend to be bigger advocates of you and tell their friends and family about you,” says Kirkpatrick.

With Metro Bank having signed up 800,000 account-holders, retailers should take note of how powerful its word of mouth has been, and consider how they could harness free marketing of their own