Business Case Study

While Viacom has been able to implement diversity for a global workforce of over 10,000 employees, UK-based Metro Bank – with its 3,000 staff – provides another great example of a successful start-up choosing ‘the other way’, with marked economic gains to show for it.  With 48 branches (or what it calls ‘stores’), Metro is driving the bottom line through its unique focus on its people processes. Investing in its staff and its diversity recruitment processes has increased Metro’s profit margins exponentially and made it the first new UK high-street bank in over 100 years.

Since it was established in 2010, Metro has grown as follows:

 

From 0–48 stores

From 10 staff to 2,500

and rising to 3,000 by the end of 2017.

That is 3,000 new jobs created, plus 1,727 promotions.

From 0–52 apprentices

with 30 more expected this year under a new in-house scheme.

Loss-making to profit of £2 million in the first
quarter of this year (2017).

£1 billion ring-fenced to lend to businesses this year

Metro Bank also reported a 33 per cent increase in profit over the past quarter, reversing a £9.6 million loss in the first quarter of 2016. In addition, it demonstrated a record surge in deposit growth and made a pretax profit of £2 million in the three months preceding March 2017, up from £1.5 million at end of 2016.

 

So what is the key to this company’s growing productivity? The secret to success lies in the simple yet unique vision of creating ‘fans’ as opposed to customers – and investing in a work culture that centres on diversity: people over profit. With almost no spending on advertising, the company now has 84 per cent brand recognition in London alone, which is simply down to its stores and its diverse and inclusive people, which have led to greater productivity and growth in the business

 

Metro’s Unique Culture

 

Unlike other corporations, Metro focuses on providing outstanding services over meeting sales targets, encouraging colleagues to bring their whole personality to work and not leave it at the door.  Chief People Officer at Metro Bank Danny Harmer is responsible for looking after Metro’s people and enabling a culture that ensures the right people with the right capabilities are employed to ‘surprise and delight our customers’. Harmer is not only defying the corporate world with this human-centred approach to diversity, but also challenging gender stereotypes herself, choosing to go by the name ‘Danny’ rather than her full forename ‘Danielle’.

 

‘What we have is outstanding career opportunities and a flexible, diverse and vibrant environment. We take what we do seriously, but we don’t take ourselves too seriously. We want Metro Bank to be an amazing place to work because that attracts the best people, which means happy customers and colleagues,’ Harmer says. Recruitment is based on fluid testing of intelligence, rather than relying on academic background as most banks do, in order to tap into a much broader pool of ‘other’ candidates. Interviews are undertaken through ‘M-factor group auditions’ – the process whereby candidates mingle and are just encouraged to be themselves. This is done in a relaxed setting where potential employees role play and ‘high-five’ at the end of the interview. The idea being that an HR team can touch more potential customers through the recruitment process than through their stores – ‘everyone needs to leave as a fan’. The company also provides training to hiring managers who are required to have a licence to hire and must attend training programmes that cover unconscious bias and diversity, which it says is key to its success. Employees are always hired in pairs to promote equality and fairness and to eliminate any hint of unconscious bias.

 

‘We are a growth organization and it is therefore our responsibility during the interview process to see people at their best. Our advice to management and those hiring is: “If you treat someone like you like them, eventually you probably will,”

Harmer says.

 

It is also the only bank that offers all store and contact centre advisors the chance to gain a professional qualification with the Chartered Banker Institute and has an apprenticeship programme to support young people to start a career in banking, giving all apprentices a permanent job from day one. To date, 364 entry-level colleagues have already achieved the professional Chartered Banker qualification since the scheme was set up, while 267 people have graduated from Learning to Lead – Metro’s new leadership development programme. In addition, all colleagues receive share options, meaning everyone can personally benefit from the bank’s growth and achievements – from the frontline colleagues in store to backroom colleagues keeping things running smoothly.  In support of diversity, Metro believes that when people feel comfortable, they perform better. The company has therefore created colleague-led groups focused on diversity to help make that happen, from Women on Work to support female colleagues, to M-Pride, the inclusive-LGBT network, set up to enable colleagues to celebrate and promote inclusion.

Danny Harmer, Chief People Officer

It is also always committed to re-evaluating itself and obtaining feedback from its ‘fans’ and employees through engagement surveys, such as  – The company scores particularly highly in career progressions and training supported by fair pay.

 

And its workforce is particularly diverse and representative of the communities it works with. White British make up only 40 per cent, while Metro’s Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (‘BAME’) mix at 60 per cent are represented throughout the bank.

 

The breakdown is as follows:

Asian British

23.06%

Asian Other

6.11%

Black British 8.97%

Black Other

2.33%

Mixed British 2.25%

Mixed Other 1.87%

White British 39.60%

White Irish

0.50%

White Other 8.67%

Undisclosed 6.64%

Metro is a bank at the heart of the community. It recruits locally and supports the neighbourhoods where it is based, working with local communities in and around the stores to give back to these areas. Metro advertises jobs locally in communities and posts job adverts on construction sites where new stores are being built so that their talent reflects the community.

 

In 2015, the bank supported 1,674 community events, from business networking to financial education workshops. Metro also partnered with children’s charity Place2Be to help children and young people in primary and secondary schools to build mental health resilience, underlining Metro Bank’s commitment to disabilities and the wellbeing of children and young people in the UK.

Likewise, the MoneyZone education programme for children reaches young people from all backgrounds by introducing them to financial skills and helps them understand how money, saving and banking works. In 2016, it hosted 800 sessions, reaching over 24,000 young people. This engaging approach has led to a growing cohort of young people who are financially literate and prepared for their financial future, and demonstrates another way in which Metro works at the heart of every community it serves.

 

‘Mr, Mrs and now MX’

But perhaps Metro Bank’s recent policies on introducing non-binary titles for gender make it particularly unique. In November, it became the first high-street bank to give colleagues and customers who do not identify with a specific gender the option to choose MX as a title. This simple change was an opportunity to drive forward equality and take an active stance on an issue that is highly personal to a number of Metro ‘fans’. The ‘no stupid bank rules’ approach meant Metro was able to remove a barrier that had left some colleagues and customers feeling alienated and unrecognized.

 

These advances notwithstanding, balancing cultural diversity with growth also presents challenges and even Metro admits that diversity is easy to understand in theory, but difficult to do in practice, particularly for a corporation. However, Metro says the key for growth is to continue to question the status quo and to fight against experience by not choosing people like yourself as much as possible, in order to widen the pool of candidates.

 

Harmer concludes:

 ‘Changing culture is more difficult than building a culture, and some banks don’t have the alignment quite right between the measure of profit and sales and managing people. As a result, people get left behind. But if you maintain your culture, offer customers choice and treat your staff well from the outset, you will be profitable.’

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