Magazine article Marketing

News Analysis: Boutique Bank Bows In

Magazine article Marketing

News Analysis: Boutique Bank Bows In

Article excerpt

It may be a tough time to launch, but Metro Bank hopes service will give it an edge.

A time of economic downturn and credit write-downs seems an odd moment to be launching a new financial services brand - let alone one based on a structure of high-street branches. The last such bank launched before World War II.

Yet Anthony Thomson, chief executive of the Financial Services Forum marketing advisory service, believes that there is an opportunity in the UK market, and has teamed up with US banking mogul Vernon Hill to launch Metro Bank, a chain of boutique-style banks, starting in the Greater London area.

Based on Hill's previous experience, the pair might be on to something. In 2001, when the global economy was last faltering, Hill opened a series of Metro Banks in New York. Despite the economic uncertainty following the 11 September terrorist attacks, the project was a success, and the chain was bought by Toronto-Dominion Bank last year for pounds 4.25bn.

Bespoke experience

Sources close to Metro Bank say they are looking to provide a more bespoke 'retail experience' than other high-street brands. Starting with four key branches and building up to 200 within a decade, Metro Bank aims to open from 7.30am-8pm Monday-Saturday, and 10am-4pm on Sunday.

Through an initially small amount of advertising and PR activity, the brand will target those willing to pay a small premium for higher-quality service, as well as customers of challenger brands such as Virgin Atlantic. Ultimately, its market is the 3m consumers who, according to a recent report by the Office of Fair Trading, are dissatisfied with their current bank.

So what does the industry think? Alan Gilmour, one-time marketing director at TSB and now at Landsbanki, agrees some consumers are looking for something different. 'High-street banks have become very me-too. …

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