Words by Adelle Grisaffe
After opening its doors in 2010, Metro Bank instantly became the first new high street bank to launch in the UK in over 150 years. Metro Bank’s Head of Digital Strategy, Chris Wilkinson, spoke at the Fintech Talents Conference held in London last month. Adelle Grisaffe, Producer – Global Digital Banker Podcast at RFi Group was on the ground and caught up with Chris to discuss how they have instilled trust amongst UK consumers and their customer-first approach to onboarding and servicing their clients.
In an environment with a number of long-standing banks that have built up years of trust, how were you able to scale the bank and build trust amongst consumers?
It’s interesting that you say ‘trust’ – sure customers generally trust their banks not to lose their money, but actually for a very long time customers haven’t trusted their banks to have their best interests at heart. Customers haven’t trusted their banks to provide them with great customer service or products that they understand or easy ways to communicate with their banks. So at metro bank we came to market to do something a little bit different by creating a bank that’s based around great customer service, simple products and convenience, we’ve been able to create a bank that people really like.
How do you incorporate digital within the on-boarding process? What do you offer to your customers?
One of the things that made Metro Bank famous in the beginning was the way that we did on-boarding so our customers could walk into one of our stores and walk out half an hour later with a complete and functioning account with the card printed on-site and ready to use. So at the beginning of this year we launched our new current account and digital on-boarding process which we worked really hard at to design to be simple, easy and straight forward. It’s got all the great stuff that you’d expect including selfie verification and photos of ID’s but one of the things that customers really love is that they can open their account at home then they can go to one of our stores and pick up the card the same day, rather than waiting for it to arrive in the post. It’s just one of the ways that Metro Bank merges physical and digital.
You announced some very exciting news earlier this month, the launch of your new mobile banking in-app offering, can you explain about the offering and what this means to your customers?
We call it Insights. We launched it last month and are very excited to put AI into the hands of our customers for the first time, it’s our AI powered personal financial assistant. It helps customers understand the complexity of their finances and gives them insights around unexpected payments into or out of their account. These payments are then flagged to them along with changes to regular payments, for example, if a bill is more than normal for one month, it will alert our customers.
What has the initial feedback been on that?
It’s early stages and we’ve only just started rolling it out to our customers. Right now not everybody has it as we’ve been doing a phased roll-out, but for the customers who do have it, they love it. The feedback is predominantly around how it gives them visibility over their finances that they just didn’t have before.
As a growing bank, how do you incorporate customer feedback when it comes to product development and new product offerings?
One of the advantages that we have over some of the digital only banks is we’re really close to our customers in the physical world. We opened our 60th store last month which means that we can build trust in relationships with individual customers in a way that not all banks can. Using that, in every stage of the product development process is something that we work really hard to do. We can have conversations with customers in a way that gives us a level of insight that’s very difficult to get just from data alone.
There’s been a lot of discussion about culture today, what does culture mean to you at Metro?
Culture is everything at Metro. One of the things that we do quite differently to a lot of the more established banks is that we give our colleagues a much greater sense of freedom and latitude to do what’s right for the customer and this applies to every part of the bank. We’re talking about delivering replacement cards to a customer’s hospital bed for example – some people wouldn’t be allowed to do that in other banks as that would be against the rules. In other banks you’re driven by targets and you’ve got to stay on the premises so even if the staff of those banks wanted to do great things for their customers the institution doesn’t let them do it. This is why we motivate and empower our colleagues and that goes all the way through the bank right through to serving customers front line to the way that we design our products.
To discover more insights on digital payments in the UK, be sure to check out RFi Group’s latest infographic “Winning the UK customer of the future” here. To receive weekly thought leader interviews direct to your inbox, visit the Global Digital Banker Podcast website to subscribe.
Chris Wilkinson, Head of Digital Strategy, Metro Bank