Julian Knight: The local Metro? It's banking, AJ, but not as we know it
Sunday 22 May 2011
I really do need to get a life.
My lunchtime wasn't spent taking in the rays in Hyde Park or enjoying a glass of crisp Sauvignon Blanc at any one of the numerous wine bars; no, instead I voluntarily went to a bank for a nosey around. Not a normal bank, though, and not one I have an account with; it was the new Metro bank branch on Kensington High Street, which opened in a blaze of balloons and face painting a couple of weeks ago. With its stark red-and-blue colour scheme – which I'm sorry to say will date incredibly quickly – it has the feel of a seaside arcade about it. Notice straight away the fact that the bank is full of staff – few customers – and incredibly tidy desks. But I'm not going to be bitchy about Metro because of AJ, a young branch worker who approached me. Friendly to a fault, polite and open, he gave me, an ordinary punter off the street – I didn't say who I was or what I was doing there – an impromptu tour of the branch, including the vault and the secure room where you can look at your safety deposit box. You can rent one from £100 a year in the branch and have seven-day access, which is a real boon for those, like me, worried about storing building society account books and personal documents at home at the mercy of burglars.
And I like the change machine where you dump your coins in and it produces a chit with how much you have paid in, which you can then either pay into a Metro current account or transfer to an account with another bank.
However, I do have some worries about the Metro bank concept. Chief among these are that it is solely London-based and will be for quite a few years. The suspicion is that Metro will grab a few per cent of the lucrative mid-to-upmarket end of the London banking market and then sell up to one of their huge competitors. At a stroke, customers will be back to square one, with some soulless drone from one of the big banks squeezing every ounce of margin out of them and completely forgetting about customer service. But perhaps I'm being too sceptical – an occupational hazard, I'm afraid – perhaps I ought, instead, to think of AJ's friendly handshake and genuine excitement at what his bank is about.
Lay off the comparison sites
Direct Line is puffing out its chest over the results of a Which? survey that so-called aggregators – that's price-comparison websites in plain English – are lacking in that dreadful word "transparency". Apparently, it's not totally clear that many of the price comparison websites only offer a percentage of the market, rather than 100 per cent.
It's worth noting that no price-comparison site can cover 100 per cent because Direct Line and Aviva choose not to take part, knowing only too well that in many instances their insurance quotations wouldn't pass muster in the hyper-competitive environment of the comparison site. Direct Line has tried to spin a "told you so" line out of the Which? survey, and it's disingenuous in the extreme.
A couple of years ago, I was quite concerned about some of the practices of the comparison sites, particularly in the utilities sector. But, generally, a combination of regulator action and the white-hot heat of competition are serving consumers well. As for worries over sites not covering the majority of the market; the answer is simple, go to several and compare the comparison sites, it takes minutes. All in all, the advent of comparison sites has been one of the major consumer advances of the past 20 years, saving time and allowing active shoppers to find the very best deal.
Independent Partners; request a free guide on NISAs from Hargreaves Lansdown
Authorities failing in hunt for 'most wanted' tax dodgers who owe HMRC £844m
Buyers beware of new-build home headaches
How to protect your assets if the stock markets begin to head south again
A student's guide to financial survival: You don't have to drown in debt at university
Bargain Hunter: Kit yourself out in sports gear - at a healthy discount of up to 75%
- 1 Gun instructor accidentally shot dead by nine-year-old girl with Uzi gun
- 2 Miley Cyrus' homeless MTV VMAs date, Jesse Helt, is wanted by the police
- 3 Notting Hill Carnival: Woman shares selfie after being ‘punched in face for telling man to stop groping her’
- 4 Pamela Anderson rejects ice bucket challenge because of ALS experiments on animals: 'Mice had holes drilled into their skulls'
- 5 Homer Simpson has taken the ALS ice bucket challenge because of course he has
Exclusive: We share blame for creating 'jihad generation', says Muslim strategist
Robin Williams Emmys tribute led by Billy Crystal criticised for including 'racist' joke about Muslim woman
The Rotherham child abuse scandal is a tale of apologists, misogyny and double standards
Scottish independence TV debate: Pumped-up Alex Salmond bounces back in bruising second round against Alistair Darling
Jeremy Clarkson is a cultural tumour and needs to be removed, says comedian Frankie Boyle
Do you realise just how foolish the UK looks?
- < Previous
- Next >
iJobs Money & Business
£40000 - £48000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: C# Devel...
£45000 - £60000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: C# Swift...
Negotiable: Harrington Starr: A fast growing Financial Services organisation b...
£50000 - £60000 per annum + excellent benefits: Harrington Starr: An award-win...
Day In a Page
A first-floor flat with two bedrooms, a spacious reception room and communal grounds in a leafy part of London
A three-bedroom flat with a spacious rootop terrace and balcony, accessed from a private gated courtyard
A Grade II-listed pile with six bedrooms, stables and 39 acres of grounds in Standlake
A two-bedroom flat with boutique hotel-style interiors, close to the foodie haunt of West End Lane
A two-bedroom flat in a beautiful old vicarage, with many original features, close to the city centre
A three-bedroom 16th-century home with an aga kitchen, private gardens and heated outdoor pool, in Hadleigh
A three-bedrom home in sought-after Queen's Gate Mews, with Italian marble-finished bathrooms
Surrounded by glorious countryside in the village of Udimore, sits this impressive four-kiln oast and barn conversion
A five-bedroom house in the picturesque village of Kettlewell, north Yorkshire
An 18th-century former coaching inn with original staircase, open fireplaces and beams throughout
A Grade II-listed Georgian town house with three bedrooms and a south-facing courtyard, near Arundel Castle
Feel on top of the world at this über chic penthouse on the 37th floor of one of Europe’s tallest blocks.
A Grade II-listed Victorian villa with six bedrooms and two further cottages, all with spectacular sea views
A grade II-listed, Georgian cottage with mature 50ft garden, perfect for summer entertaining
A magnificent Georgian pile with turrets, seven bedrooms, a heated pool and four acres of gardens
Fairoak Farm has five bedroom suites, gym, outdoor swimming pool and golf course
Chic two-bedroom river-fronted flat with a private lift that delivers you directly to your home
A spectacular seven-bedroom Tudor pile, once owned by Henry VIII, with 18 acres of land
A seven-bedroom Georgian property previously used as a picturesque wedding venue
A split-level flat in a church conversion with two en suite bedrooms and 1,200sq ft of living space
A three-bedroom bungalow situated behind an impressive stone wall, £645,000
Windsor Castle overlooks this three-bedroom Victorian cottage located on one of Windsor's smartest roads
Chapel House is a former vicarage with nine bedrooms in the beautiful Upper Wye Valley
A five-bedroom B&B and separate owner's accomodation with potential for conversion
Enjoy summer by the Thames in this two double-bedroom converted warehouse in Rotherhithe village
A one-bedroom, luxury apartment with private gym and concierge service in Moorgate
A four-bedroom house in Hermitage Gardens with three reception rooms and landscaped gardens
A seven-bedroom Grade II-listed property with a separate self-contained apartment
A five-bedroom Victorian house with three reception rooms and galleried landing, £695,000
A six-bedroom farmhouse with five acres of land in a former cloth-making village
A secluded seven-bedroom detached house with large private garden, £490,000
A three-bedroom cottage overlooking Sarratt village green with open fires and solid oak floors
A three-bedroom maisonette flat in a Grade I-listed, Georgian townhouse in a sought-after location
A one-bedroom apartment located within a private gated development, north of Turnham Green
Look forward to a brighter future at two-bedroom Sunny Cottages, ideal for Londoners looking to downsize
A three-bedroom red-brick cottage with outbuildings and pretty gardens, £200,000
This three-bedroom flat within a former textile factory spans the corner of the fourth floor and has a balcony