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Metro Bank's MacArthur: clients 'just want a bank to be a bank'
by Danielle Levy on Aug 09, 2013 at 09:31
Metro Bank’s flagship Holborn ‘store’ is a far cry from those of its high-street competitors.
There are no queues in sight, it is completely open plan and you can’t see any pens chained to counters. Instead they are freely available to use or take, along with red lollipops.
It feels like a cross between a hotel lobby and a casino, particularly once you catch a glimpse of the Metro Bank Magic Money Machine. With somewhat elaborate signage, it turns change into notes and is available to non-bank customers as well.
Upstairs in Metro’s young private banking division, once again you can see how the bank is seeking to differentiate itself from the pack. While most UK private banks have expanded their services through the years, marrying private banking with investment management and financial planning, Metro wants to keep things simple.
Private banking head Kirsty MacArthur (pictured) explains that after years spent at Coutts and UBS Wealth Management, which offer integrated propositions, she believes clients ‘just want a bank to be a bank’. As a result, the division offers bespoke lending, deposits and current accounts, and has no plans to move into new areas.
‘While other banks want to offer a full range of wealth solutions, we just want to do the basics really well – so banking and lending is all we want to do. We want to be around the table with the rest of the client’s advisers as part of their trusted circle, but we just want to do the banking bit really well,’ she explained.
This has helped to attract third-party referrals from wealth managers, advisers, lawyers, accountants and sports agents so far, MacArthur said. When she joined in late 2011 she was considering building a panel of external investment managers, but said the company did not subsequently see a need to develop this.
Although the bank is unable to strip out assets or client numbers for the private banking arm, MacArthur said demand has been strong for both lending and deposits, with the growth of the team from four to 12 over the past year testifying to this. Paul Bettis, formerly of Coutts’ sports and media team, is its newest recruit.
During the first half of the year, the broader group saw a 54% rise in account holders, with a deposit base of £870 million. Nonetheless, the group said investing for future growth had hit the bottom line with a £19.4 million operating loss during the six-month period.
The bank does not apply additional charges for private banking services and aims to be flexible in terms of the types of clients it deals with. ‘We are willing to look at clients other banks may not because they don’t tick boxes,’ MacArthur added.
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