Exclusive: Interview with Metro Bank founder and chairman Vernon Hill

Fans, Brexit, the future and Donald Trump

Metro Bank’s customer services are ranked number one? What is the reason behind it?

My book ‘Fans not customers’ will tell you more about this. Like every successful business, our model focusses on service and convenience. We are not about selling anything but making the customer experience better. Everything we do, every decision we take is about making that experience better, making customers your fans. Because fans join your brand, they stay loyal and eventually bring their friends. Around 1.1mn people in Britain have switched to us in a country where you swear you won’t switch brands.

What are your expansion plans for the future?

We started at the centre and will be expanding out. Right now our market is Brighton, Reading, Cambridge and Southend. We will be going to the Midlands and Birmingham next year. We will also be going to Cardiff in the west. If we are not in your town, we will be coming there soon!

Are you looking at national coverage?

Ours is a mobile bank model, which didn’t work great in American small towns. So we will be there in all major metropolitan areas.

What do you do to support small businesses?

Our bank is 50% commercial and 50% consumer. We do all types of commercial lending from middle market and down, which means up to £50m down to small business. On a very basic level, we open a business current account in one hour while it takes other banks six days to a week.

What is your opinion of Brexit?

I follow Brexit but I don’t want to make a political comment about it. I don’t see much change, London is booming, I haven’t heard any reduction in the business activity. London is a boom town and it will stay like that if you are in Brexit or not.  

What do you think about Theresa May?

No comment on Theresa May.

What are your thoughts on current interest rates? (interviewed prior to 2nd November 2017)

I keep hoping the rates would rise. Banks don’t care about the level of rates but it’s the shape of the curve we care about. The rates have been unbelievably low for an unbelievably long period of time and this is going to change, but I have no idea when.

What are your key challenges in scaling up Metro Bank?

When we started the bank, the original challenges were could we get the license, could we raise the money, could we put in an affordable IT systems, and could we recruit the people who believed in our model. And when we opened here in the summer of 2010, would the Brits accept us? Now we are way beyond this, we manage all the dynamics with unbelievable growth. My book talks about the business models and cultures to match the models and execution. Now not only do have to keep up with the growth but also make our services better as we go up.

What’s your ultimate ambition?

100% of the market, isn’t that a very American answer. If we only got 10% of the market, that should keep us working.

Have you spoken to Donald Trump since the election?

Yes I have. Actually I know him very, very well, we go back 25-30 years. First of all, the Brits are partially responsible for Trump winning. If Brexit hadn’t happened, Trump wouldn’t have happened. You created the momentum. Brexit and Trump are the same thing - they are rebellion against the elite whether it’s Brussels, Westminster or Washington. We have had enough of you guys.

In America, everyone was shocked by the results. Trump was himself shocked that he won (giggles). American gets these swings from Left to Right. We have gone way too far Left and Trump will swing it back to the Centre and then to the Right.

Do you like living here in UK?

I spent half my life here - it’s fun to work here. The business environment is very good here, the burden on government is less than the American burden on government and the British public has really embraced us. The government in many ways is better to work with than the Americans.

Will you ever take Metro bank to Europe?

No (giggles). The American banking system year ago was patterned after the British system. So it’s easier to bring the American model here but it’s different in Europe.

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