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We ask, ‘how can we be better tomorrow than we are today?’: Craig Donaldson

By 2020, Metro Bank plans to have 100 stores, around 5,000 employees and two million customer accounts – essentially almost doubling its current metrics. And leading the charge is CEO Craig Donaldson. “Our growth is creating real competition and choice for customers across personal business,” Craig tells The CEO Magazine. “Businesses are the most underserved part of banking. That’s where we are bringing real competition to British high streets.”

When Metro Bank entered the financial scene in London in 2010, it became the first high street bank to open in the UK in more than 100 years. “If you look at the UK market, you’ve got over £2 trillion in deposits and 68 million customers on a small island,” Craig says. “And currently, about 80% of the personal business market and 90% of the business market is held by the large incumbents in a cartel-like manner. It’s an enormous market, with just five organisations running it. We are the true competition and challenger offering better service to customers.”

Craig Donaldson, CEO of Metro Bank
Craig Donaldson, CEO of Metro Bank

Craig was one of Metro Bank’s first employees when it opened, taking up the role of CEO after more than 25 years of experience in retail and commercial banking. “My view is that customers want convenience and choice and they’ve not been offered that for quite some time,” he says. “There’s an opportunity for our organisation to focus on that and win customers.”

The company’s vision is to ensure it builds and maintains a culture that is truly customer focused over the long term. “We cannot afford to let that go,” Craig emphasises. He says developing this culture means taking into account how the company recruits, trains and develops its employees to be focused on the customer all the time.

Metro Bank is dog friendly, providing dog biscuits and fresh water bowls at all its stores. Plus, if a customer adopts a dog or cat from Battersea Dogs and Cats Home, they are given a rehoming fund of up to £105 for a dog and £65 for a cat.

For Craig, having a great vision is an essential part of being a CEO and serves as a way to motivate staff. He highlights that everyone at Metro Bank has to take part in a two-day ‘visions and values’ training program to ensure they understand where the company is headed. “It doesn’t matter whether you’re joining as a cashier or a non-executive director – everybody goes through it. We also put our legal and technology partners through it because we want everyone to understand where we’re going and how we’re going to get there, so that they can work with us to achieve it.”

The company has had significant improvement over the past eight years, but Craig believes more can be done. “It’s like a kaizen approach, the Japanese idea of continuous improvement,” he explains. “Our net promoter scores are about 80%, but we could do better. The thing we can’t afford to do is to stand still because then we’d go backwards.

“The thing we can’t afford to do is to stand still because then you’d go backwards.”

Metro Bank

“We have to keep focusing on how we can be better in what we do for our customers. We apply a continuous improvement approach that goes across all facets: our technology, training, recruitment and how we develop people. We ask, ‘How can we be better tomorrow than we are today?’ because that’s how you build great companies.”

While managing capital and liquidity is a given for Metro Bank, Craig considers these aspects as “just the mechanics”. What is more important is the company’s quest for better service. “I have set meetings with my executive team on Monday afternoons every week and we discuss the voice of our colleagues and voice of our customers,” he says. “We gather insights right down to unit levels and focus on what our customers and colleagues are telling us. Then we look at how we can be better because, to me, our colleagues and customers know what they want. My job is to work out how we can deliver this better each time.”

Gaining insights into what customers and colleagues want is one of the most valuable facets of Metro Bank, something that is enhanced by technology. “It’s the integration of technology and people that creates funds for us,” Craig says. “I’m very fortunate that I’ve worked in technology for several years and understand it.”

But gaining insights isn’t undertaken solely by the company; Craig identifies support from Metro Bank’s partners and suppliers such as tech giant Microsoft and software firm Temenos. “We obviously talk to our colleagues and customers about what they want. But it’s interesting and engaging when you have other organisations making observations and bringing you ideas,” Craig says.

“These partnerships broaden the network of people who care about the success of your business. And if you’ve got everybody caring about the success of the business and focusing on customers, then you become better. The days when you used to pay a supplier to deliver a service created a one-dimensional relationship that lacked the benefit of having more people caring about your service delivery. You need your partners to care as much as you do.”

“You need your partners to care as much as you do.”

Craig Donaldson, CEO of Metro Bank

But Metro Bank doesn’t gain insights just for internal use; it wants customers to experience the benefits of these insights as well. In 2018, the company – in conjunction with fintech Personetics – announced the release of Insights, an AI-powered money management service for customers. Available through the Metro Bank app, the system uses predictive analytics together with AI to monitor a customer’s transaction data in real time and pinpoint trends in their spending habits. These trends are then translated into prompts that alert customers about a range of situations such as times for renewing subscriptions or unusual spending activity.

Despite Metro Bank being a relatively new entrant in UK banking, Craig is confident in its competitive advantages. “We have better people, with better technology in better locations,” he concludes.

“We’ve better people, with better technology in better locations.”

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