RiverTribe’s Business Columnist Norman Jackson takes a look at Metro Bank and shows us what we can learn from the vision of its founder, Vernon W. Hill II.


Outside the Institute of Sport in Australia is a statute of a pole-vaulter but there is no bar – why? Because with no bar there are no limits.

A great example of a business leader ignoring limits, dreaming “Big” and then doing it, is the Founder of Metro Bank, Vernon W. Hill II.

In 1973, he started Commerce Bank in the USA, going on to open 470 stores before selling out in 2008 for $8.5 billion. He is now doing the same in the UK with Metro Bank, which opened in Holborn in 2010, went public in 2016 (FTSE 250) and posted its first profit in 2017. Now it has 55 stores and is looking to have 200 stores by 2020. So, what can RiverTribe SME owners learn from Metro – here are four key points.

Business Model

The Bank currently has deposits of £11.7 billion, which is less than 1% of the UK deposit market. Eighty per cent of the UK’s main current accounts are with HSBC, Barclays, the Lloyds Banking Group, the Royal Bank of Scotland, and Santander – so easily room for another.

But, I hear you cry, “How can Metro Bank be opening stores, when UK Banks have closed over 1,000 branches over the last two years?”. The answer is that Metro Bank have an ace card called Safety Deposit Boxes – customers (Metro Bank call them Fans) can hire five different sizes at a cost of anything from £250 to £675 per annum.      

The net income from these safety deposit boxes pays on average for 80% of the stores rents / leases – very clever business model.

Key Personnel – now and in the Future.

Investors in businesses will look at the business model but are just as interested in the Key Personnel and the people who run the business. How often have you heard a Dragon in the Den talking of investable people?

Vernon W. Hill II has surrounded himself at Board level with an experienced and respected group of individuals including Craig Donaldson, as CEO, and eight quality Non-Executive Directors.

But just as important is Metro Bank’s strong emphasis of training their 3,000 Team Members (employees), who attend cultural training on their first two days at Metro Bank, followed by up to a further six weeks of training for customer service roles, and then regular training after that.


Metro’s formula is a Differential Business Model. Pervasive Culture + Fanatical Execution = FANS not customers. Metro Bank strive for unmatched customer service and convenience.

This includes Call Centres, with live team members answering customer questions and solving problems 24/7, opening and closing ten minutes before and after official opening and closing times and taking 15 minutes to open a bank account.

Standing out from the Crowd

Vernon and his wife Shirley have a Yorkshire Terrier named Duffy, who is ubiquitous – not only is he often pictured with Vernon and Shirley, he appears on the front cover of the latest Metro Bank Annual Report. A few pages later, he is listed as the Bank’s CCO – Chief Canine Officer – truly brilliant!

Metro Bank were recently featured on Radio 2’s Jeremy Vine Show. There had been news that the Royal Mint were thinking of taking 1ps and 2ps out of circulation – so BBC’s Paddy O’Connell was dispatched (with his Border Terrier, Bob) to a Metro Bank Store.   

Whilst Bob had some water and biscuits, Paddy put £40 worth of coins through the counting machine, whilst discussing the problems of loose change with Metro Bank staff. The interview lasted about ten minutes – and Metro Bank did not pay a penny for it – free advertising on prime-time radio for just “standing out” – fantastic!