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Retail banks: Metro Bank branches out

While rivals shut branches to cut costs, new entrant Metro Bank plans to open 200 new offices in London alone. Veteran Vernon Hill is taking retail service back to its roots with dog bowls, coin counters and Metro man toys.

There is something rather familiar for a US resident about walking into a branch of Metro Bank in London. The chequered black-and-white-tiled floors, the blue-and-red decor, the coin-counting machines, the dog bowls... That’s because it is exactly the same as Commerce Bank – the US northeast bank that was sold to TD Bank for $8.5 billion five years ago. Even the big red smiley ‘M’ that represents Metro Bank is just an upside down version of the ‘W’ in ‘Wow!’ that played a front-seat role in Commerce Bank’s marketing campaigns.

Vernon Hill, vice-chairman of Metro Bank and founder of Commerce Bank
Vernon Hill, vice-chairman of Metro Bank and founder of Commerce Bank

Commerce Bank’s founder, Vernon Hill, is doing what has not been done in the UK for 138 years. He has opened a high-street bank. He is basing it on the model that made his Commerce Bank shareholders 470 times their original stake, and Hill himself $400 million richer. While the rest of the banking industry is scaling back branches and discussing whether the branch is even a requirement in the modern age of digital wallets, Metro Bank is doing the opposite.

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