The banks that deliver on customer service

Last year, Britain’s first new high-street bank in almost 140 years opened its doors. Metro Bank emphasised good customer service, with longer opening hours and helpful staff. So, one year on, has Metro Bank been a success - and what effect has it had on the rest of the banking market? Ruth Jackson investigates, and looks at how well Britain's banks are doing on customer service.

Just over a year ago the first new bank to hit Britain's high streets in almost 140 years opened. Metro Bank's first branch in Holborn, London, promised to change the way we bank in Britain. There would be longer opening hours, attentive, helpful staff and free giveaways when you opened a bank account. So, a year on, has Metro Bank been a success and what impact has it had on the rest of the banking market?

In short, it seems to be doing rather well. It is expanding its branch network faster than forecast, with six branches already open in London and at least 200 set to be open in the capital by 2020. The bank is also, reportedly, proving popular with customers, with founder Vernon Hill saying deposits are "growing rapidly" although there are no official figures to support that claim yet.

Anyone who has suffered years of poor service with their current bank will quickly realise the attraction of Metro Bank. Its branches are open seven days a week with longer hours of 8am to 8pm on weekdays so you don't have to dash in and queue up in your lunch hour. So far the bank is also meeting its target of being able to open accounts and hand over a cash card within 15 minutes. There are some fairly eye-catching incentives too. Last weekend, if you'd taken your dog into a branch and opened an account, you'd have received £20. But there's more to Metro than gimmicks it's received glowing reviews on various industry websites.

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However, if you value returns over service, you'll probably not be tempted by Metro Bank as its accounts do not compete with the big banks when it comes to interest rates. Metro Bank's current account doesn't pay any interest and its savings account rates aren't competitive either. The bank also isn't the best option for anyone outside London there will be no branches outside the capital for some time yet. If you are going for internet banking, FirstDirect comes up tops in customer satisfaction surveys and offers better rates.

Nonetheless, for those Londoners who are willing to give up current-account interest in return for customer service, Metro Bank is an attractive option. There is no fee for the current account, the overdraft charges are straight-forward and competitive and you'll be treated properly. The competition certainly seems to be worried. Earlier this month Barclays bank announced it was going to focus on delivering a better customer service. Royal Bank of Scotland launched a customer charter last year, which included having branches open longer and being quicker to replace ATM cards. Even Santander (branded worst bank for customer service by Which?) is employing 1,000 more staff in its call centres. For that alone, Metro Bank deserves its plaudits.

Current accounts compared

Swipe to scroll horizontally
MetroN/APersonal current account0%15% EAR
First Direct90%1st Account0%0% for the first £250, then 15.9% EAR
Smile (Co-op)86%Current account0.12% AER15.9% EAR
Nationwide BS69%Flex Account0%18.9% EAR
HSBC57%Bank Account0%19.9% EAR
Lloyds TSB55%Classic Account with Vantage0% or 2% AER if you pay in £1,000 a month, rising to 4% AER if you pay in £5,000-£8,000 a month*19.3% EAR
NatWest/RBS54%Current account0%0% for the first £100, then 19.89% EAR
Barclays51%Bank account0%19.3% EAR
Halifax50%Reward current account0% unless you pay in £1,000 a month, in which case you'll receive £5 a month up to £2,500£1 a day on overdrafts
Santander42%Preferred current account5% for the first 12 months on balances up to £2,500, then 1%0% for the first 12 months, then 50p a day capped at £5 a month

*if you dip into overdraft you won't receive any credit interest

Ruth Jackson-Kirby

Ruth Jackson-Kirby is a freelance personal finance journalist with 17 years’ experience, writing about everything from savings and credit cards to pensions, property and pet insurance. 

Ruth started her career at MoneyWeek after graduating with an MA from the University of St Andrews, and she continues to contribute regular articles to our personal finance section. After leaving MoneyWeek she went on to become deputy editor of Moneywise before becoming a freelance journalist.

Ruth writes regularly for national publications including The Sunday Times, The Times, The Mail on Sunday and Good Housekeeping among many other titles both online and offline.