Metro Bank opens doors in UK

Metro Bank chairman Anthony Thomson: "We want to give customers a great experience"

The first High Street bank to launch in the UK for more than 100 years has opened its first branch in Holborn in London.

Metro Bank says it will emphasise good customer service, including long opening hours seven days a week.

The bank will open 10 more stores in the next two years, and aims to have more than 200 in Greater London within ten years.

Metro Bank hopes to gain customers dissatisfied with their existing banks.

"I have opened 500 similar locations in America," Vernon Hill, one of the bank's founders, told BBC News.

"Britons are dying for revolution in the banking business, focused on service, and we are here to provide it."

At the scene

Most of the people in Metro Bank's new Holborn branch seemed to be bank executives and staff, PR people and journalists.

But amidst the razzmatazz of balloons and a trad jazz band playing outside, I found real interest from the first customers, not just idle curiosity.

They were genuinely keen on the bank's message that they would receive a significantly better level of service.

And they hoped this would pressurise other established banks to do likewise.

Metro Bank will focus on Greater London for its first ten years.

Now that it has opened it raises a rather obvious question.

Why hasn't anyone thought of doing this before?

The bank promises to let people open a full account with debit and credit cards in just 15 minutes and its branches will be open every day, including Sundays, apart from four public holidays a year.

"We believe customers simply want a better experience from their bank, the kind they typically get from a great retailer and that's what we intend to give them," said chairman Anthony Thomson.

Metro Bank's overdraft rate will be a standard 15%, personal loans will be charged at 10%, while annual interest paid on instant access savings will be just 0.5%.

However analysts said that the mortgage and savings products being launched were not yet competitive enough to enter the best-buy tables.

"Although they are offering all these other benefits, such as longer opening hours, one of the main things for people is a competitive interest rate," said Michelle Slade, of financial information service Moneyfacts.

"If they have not got at least a reasonable rate of interest, people will discount them. They are going to struggle to get market share."

Vernon Hill, the co-founder of Metro Bank along with chairman Anthony Thomson, hopes to replicate his success in the USA.

During his career there he opened four new banks and grew one, called Commerce Bank, from one branch in 1973 to eventually 500 outlets.

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