Lollipops and dog treats don’t equal great banking

29 July 2010

 “It’s banking does Dallas,” a friend exclaimed via Twitter. “They have this silly dog that is the mascot. It’s called Duffy.” 

Metro Bank, the newest kid on the block, has landed in central London this week to much fanfare and dog-related humour. But that’s all it is: fanfare, and dogs. 

Metro Bank’s website screams ‘no more stupid bank rules’ and ‘unlimited convenience’. Among the gimmicks are dog biscuits (because, ‘dogs rule at Metro Bank’) and lollipops for children, since being high on e-numbers is apparently now a pre-requisite to opening a current account. 

As the first bank to open on the British high street in more than 100 years, it attaches the caveat ‘the banking revolution’ in the loosest sense possible. But with only one store in central London, it’s hardly Orwell’s Animal Farm. 

Convenience seems to be the foil for its frankly uncompetitive rates. The instant-access savings account offers a paltry return of 0.5%, so the same as the base rate then, whereas overdrafts are charged at a flat 15% rate. 

There are some attractive features: a current account can be opened in 15 minutes and debit and credit cards can be printed in store, and a flat credit card rate of 13% is charged on purchases, balance transfers and cash withdrawals, which is nice and simple. 

With loans too, there is a one-size-fits-all 10% rate and you might find a good mortgage deal if you can stump up a large enough deposit.

Put simply, none of these rates are going to set the best-buy tables on fire, despite how ‘easy’ or ‘convenient’ the service might be. I care about the rates first, the convenience second. 

Research shows that 57% of banking customers welcome a new face on the high street, but only 38% would consider switching their account. And that’s how I feel – nice to have the option and thanks, but no thanks. 

Personally, I’m a current account tart. I constantly switch my money around and open new accounts on a whim, never to put any money into them. 

Even so, I’m loathe to open an account with Metro Bank. I’m not saying that my other banks have great reputations, but I don’t know Metro Bank from Adam. 

There’s something slightly creepy about walking in store and being offered a big dog bowl and biscuits for your Labrador/Terrier/Jack Russell. I’m all for banks becoming more user-friendly – but they’re banks, not pet shops. 

Customer service has never been of much importance to me. I do most of my banking online and rarely go into a branch unless I have to. Maybe that anonymous culture should change, but it works well and suits my lifestyle. 

Metro Bank’s website ( looks like a rainbow threw up on it and has capital letters littered through the text indiscriminately. Suffice to say, it doesn’t have an online presence and doesn’t even appear to be considering the idea of online banking. 

There’s no denying that if you’re unlucky enough to lose your card on a night out, the fact you can get a new one issued the next day, seven days a week, is a great perk. 

But, with only one ‘store’ at present, the longer opening hours and credit cards while-you-wait aren’t going to have much of an impact, unless you’re lucky enough to have a central London postcode (which excludes about 59 million people in the UK). More stores are planned for London and the Home Counties in the next few years, if all goes well. 

Unless we all get a sugar rush from consuming too many free lollipops, I can’t see Metro Bank making a huge dent on the ‘magic circle’ of British banks – however much we currently complain about them.