October 2015 Quarterly Dinner

Date: 14 Oct 2015

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A gathering of Milton Keynes business people expected the American founder of the first new high street retail bank in Britain since 1840 and who aims to kill every ‘stupid bank’ he can find, to shoot from the hip.

And straight-talking Vernon W Hill II, chairman of Metro Bank did not disappoint when he spoke at a dinner hosted by Milton Keynes Business Leaders Partnership.

Vernon Hill founded Commerce Bank in the US after leaving college in 1973 and sold it in 2007 for $8.5bn. In 2010 he founded Metro Bank in the UK and has seen it grow to 38 branches with 1800 staff - and counting. The day Vernon Hill spoke to MK Business Leaders he had been touring soon-to-open and prospective sites around the UK.

He told guests that he loved to visit Milton Keynes, where Metro Bank already has two branches, because it was so much like America. He said he started Metro Bank ‘to redefine and reinvent the banking business.’ Vernon Hill calls his dog-friendly branches ‘stores’ and his customers ‘fans’, and he did not mince his words when describing his established rivals: “They overcharge, underserve and under invest – and they should keep doing what they are doing. We are out to kill every stupid bank we can find, and it’s a never ending quest.”

Vernon Hill said: “The big five banks are doing you a favour by letting you bank with them. To us the customer is what we are all about. We are building a brand from scratch and building fans who enjoy our brand, remain loyal and bring their friends. We are not out to sell a product but to build a relationship.”

He said Metro Bank offered facilities like coin counting machines free to non-customers and if you correctly guess the amount you win a prize. “Other banks won’t let you bring in your dog. We want you to bring your dog, we give them treats and we know its name. Obviously it makes zero money, but customers know that ‘if you love my dog you must love me’.

“Our assets have gone from zero to £6bn and 600,000 people have switched bank to us in a country where you swear you won’t switch banks,” he said.

But there was one British attitude he cannot change. “In our stores the ATMs are inside where you are warm, dry and safe. But no, you would rather stay outside where it is cold, wet and not safe - so we have gone back and put the ATMs outside, just to make you happy,” he joked.

Dr Philip Smith, chairman of MK Business Leaders, thanked Vernon Hill for a fantastic talk.

“We have had many distinguished guests address us, and to have a real entrepreneur and a banking entrepreneur at that with us tonight giving a different perspective on the industry is phenomenal,” he said.