Editor's Comment: Metro Bank's service point

Personally I'd rather spend an hour poking myself in the eye than visit the bank during lunchtime.

After battling my way down the high street and finding my local branch, which now looks more like the bridge of the Starship Enterprise, I almost always end up queuing for an eternity in front of the only working window because most of the bank staff have taken their break at the same time as me. No wonder internet banking is so popular.

Anthony Thomson, chairman and co-founder of the soon-to-launch Metro Bank, is hoping to change all this; the watchword for the first new business to be granted a UK banking licence in more than a century is convenience.

As he explains in this week's issue (Profile, page 20), the entrepreneur hopes that Metro Bank will take British consumers back to the glory days when customer service was paramount. The 200 branches due to open in and around London over the next decade will be more like stores than traditional banks. Open seven days a week, from 8am until 8pm, they will offer old-fashioned face-to-face services and in-branch amenities such as toilets and coin-counting machines. There will even be free dog biscuits for customers accompanied by their four-legged friends.

Metro Bank will launch on Friday without the backing of a glitzy ad campaign and Thomson certainly doesn't have the marketing millions of Barclays, HSBC and Lloyds TSB. Yet, if he can convince consumers that Metro Bank's products are sound, its focus on service should allow it to carve out a unique and ultimately profitable niche.

The financial crisis has taught us that banks have long been guilty of taking their customers for granted. Against this backdrop, Metro Bank's promise to put them at the centre of everything it does will be its most powerful marketing tool. I, for one, will be signing up straight away.

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