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Metro Bank raises interest through great customer service.

Metro Bank raises interest through great customer service

The first new bank in British retail banking has opened in London, aiming to woo depositors through great customer service rather than the best interest rates in town.

Metro Bank offers long opening hours, including Saturdays and Sundays. It boasts that its friendly staff can open a new account in 20 minutes and supply bank cards 'on the spot'. But its savings rates can be among the lowest on the High Street.

The bank is the brainchild of US billionaire Vernon Hill, who successfully used the same business model - investing cheap deposits in conservative loans and safe securities - when he founded Commerce Bank in the USA in 1973.

In the September 2010 issue of Fortune, Tully reports how Commerce became the fastest-growing franchise in America. In more than 30 years leading Commerce, Hill increased deposits at 30% a year and delivered shareholders returns of 23% a year. He plans Metro Bank to grow from four stores in 2010 to 40 in 2014 and more than 200 by 2020.

According to Tully, Hill is attacking the UK market after being pushed out of Commerce by US regulators investigating contracts between the bank and Hill family members in 2007. He apparently believes that success in Britain will be a breeze, given the ordinary levels of service he considers that the existing 'Big Five' banks - HSBC, Royal Bank of Scotland, Lloyds, Barclays and Santander of Spain - currently offer their customers.

The 'no stupid bank rules', which is at the heart of Metro Bank's customer promise, highlights the 'can do' attitude that lies behind the success of Vernon Hill. Fitsimmons examines the business benefits of this approach in Volume 23, Issue 2 of The Bottom Line: Managing Library Finance.

According to the author, problem solvers analyse complaints to find the underlying problem to be solved, rather than simply filing them under the 'impossible to please everyone' banner. They never allow organizational politics to stand in the way of implementing a solution to a problem. They look for solutions to more than one problem in every opportunity, and assume that every problem has a perfect solution.

Says Fitsimmons: 'Every crisis is an opportunity for a solution to a problem that has been, or will be, encountered by your organization...Crises are great times for getting people's attention (and therefore their help and resources) toward solving a problem. But you must be able to come up with a solution that will not only move the institution out of the current situation, but also put it on track to avoid the same situation arising in the future.'

Problem-solving skills are, of course, as common in women as in men. But women, it seems, may be less likely than men to publicise their skills and make known when they achieve something. In the September 2010 issue of Financial Management, Rapacioli - who asked senior female members of the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA) to share their strategies for success - quotes Vivien Zheng, strategic-planning director at Nike China, as saying: 'You need to believe that you can succeed and be passionate about it. This involves letting others know about how well you are performing.'

Rapacioli points out that, although increasing numbers of women are becoming accountants, they are still hugely under-represented at senior-management level. CIMA's Women in Leadership campaign aims to combat this problem. The author highlights McKinsey research which has demonstrated that having more women in senior roles is linked to stronger financial performance. She continues: 'Importantly, it is not enough for them to have a token presence; studies show that a 'critical mass' of women on the board or in senior management - 30% or more - produces the best financial results.'

This lesson appears to be lost on the Metro Bank. Its website lists its all-male management team as comprising: Anthony Thomson, chairman; Vernon W. Hill II, vice-chairman; Craig Donaldson, chief executive; Paul Marriott-Clarke, managing director of retail banking; and Darren Schindler, managing director of business banking.

Metro Bank is young, dynamic and determined to break the mould - but not, it would seem , when it comes to including more women at the very top of the organization.