Page last updated at 23:30 GMT, Friday, 5 March 2010

Metro Bank gets official go-ahead in UK High Street

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Metro Bank 'to be very different'

A proposed new High Street bank, Metro Bank, has been given a banking licence by the Financial Services Authority (FSA).

The bank plans to open two branches in central London in the next three months.

It aims to expand to more than 200 in Greater London within ten years.

The bank says it will put special emphasis on giving good service to customers, including a special welcome for their dogs.

"The banking environment was fundamentally changed following the credit crunch, and we have seen seismic changes in the retail UK banking industry as a result," said Anthony Thomson, Metro Bank chairman.

"With the FSA authorisation of Metro Bank we are entering a new era of banking, one where we go back to a more traditional banking model where customer service is key and there is deposit based lending.

"We believe that by providing unparalleled service and convenience, Metro Bank will stand out from other High Street banks," he said.

Dogs welcome

Since the banking crisis led to the part-nationalisation of both the RBS and Lloyds banking groups, the government has been keen to encourage new banking businesses to set in the UK's High Streets.

The authorities are planning to sell off part of the recently re-organised Northern Rock, and would-be bankers such as Sir Richard Branson are lining themselves up to buy it.

In January Sir Richard's Virgin Money business obtained a banking licence by buying the regional bank Church House Trust.

It will be rebranded as Virgin Money, will offer savings accounts and mortgages, and is a platform for a potential bid for the Northern Rock once it is put up for sale.

Among the executive and non-executive directors of Metro Bank are people with extensive senior experience at other financial institutions such as RBS, HBOS, Anglo Irish Bank, Barclaycard, Bank of America and the Nationwide Building Society.

The co-founder of Metro Bank, along with the chairman Anthony Thomson, is Vernon Hill.

He built up a bank on the East Coast of the USA called Commerce Bank, which started with one branch in 1973 but eventually grew to 500 branches.

He is currently the chairman of the US pet insurer Pet Plan America.

Metro Bank stressed its friendly attitude to pets.

"A friendly welcome to dogs and their owners, with water bowls and dog biscuits on hand for man's best friend - dogs rule at Metro Bank!" said the bank's announcement.



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