Metro Bank – nice idea, shame about the execution

The first high street bank to launch in over 100 years threw open its doors to customers this morning. Metro Bank has only one branch so far in Holborn, London. But it has big plans to expand, aiming to open 200 branches in the next decade.

Metro Bank hopes to attract customers with longer opening hours, fantastic service and a simple range of products. It’s certainly delivering on opening hours – the Holborn branch will be open 8am-8pm on weekdays and will also open on weekends. It aims only to close on four days of the year – Christmas Day, New Year’s Day, Good Friday and Easter Sunday. No Bank Holidays here.

As for service, it promises that opening an account will take just 15 minutes and you will receive your debit or credit card there and then as they are printed on site. That sounds great, although I’m intrigued to know just what they’ve cut out of the process in order to get it that quick.

I really want to like Metro Bank and I believe any new competition in the sector is a good thing. But that’s where the problem lies. Metro Bank’s products just aren’t competitive. Their instant-access savings account pays just 0.5% – the best on the market pays 2.75%. Their bonds and mortgages are equally uncompetitive – not one of their products has made it into the best buy tables.

Compare that to another (sort of) new entrant to the market, Bank of Baroda. This Indian bank has launched an assault on the British market, with a range of products that have shot straight to the top of the best buy tables. It may not give away free dog biscuits, but I suspect it will be a bigger hit with customers.