A large majority of attention has been focussed on how Metro Bank has opened 'stores' in London and, in the space of some 3 months, exceeded account take up expectations. It has also been well documented how Metro Bank want to open a large number of 'Stores'
around London in the coming 2-3 years. These 'Stores' are open long hours and 7 days a week. As someone has said (not sure who, so no attribution), Metro Bank will never be competitive on interest rates, but it's USP is about how they interact with the Customer
and the delivery channels (telephone, 'Store', internet) that give the customer that sense of well being and comfort.
Then, at the beginning of October, there has been the celebration of 21 years for First Direct. When it started back in 1989 (I remember it well), First Direct was a revolution in banking - no branches - telephone was the only way the customer 'interacted'
with the Bank. 21 years later and whilst there is now the internet channel as well, First Direct has not expanded into the branch network (I appreciate it is underpinned by the HSBC branch network, but the branch network is nothing more than a process channel
for handling such things as cheque pay-ins etc). Having listened to Matt Colebrook (CEO of First Direct) at the Financial Services Club last month, it is understood that the First Direct call centre people are a cut above the average and have a very clear
mandate to provide a high quality service which is reflected in the ongoing success of the bank over 21 years.
So what and how does the bank of today interact with customers at the customer comfort touch points?
Certainly, the internet and the telephone service is fundamental. The key differential between First Direct and Metro Bank is the presence on the high street. Certainly, if one compares the feeling one has when one enters a normal bank branch which seems
to have changed little in the past 40 years (certainly from when I was a mere cashier on the high streets of North West London), then one does get the impression that there is a change a needed. Barclays and Co-op have certainly made strides to enhance the
customer experience when using branches but is it this facet that is where Metro Bank is trying to woo the British public and take their account from the mainstream banks?
Given the success of branchless First Direct, do Metro Bank need 'Stores' to succeed or are they an expensive luxury.....?????
The next 21 years may show us more .... and what impact will this have on the main bank branch networks that are shrinking through cost cutting and bank rationalisation?