On the morning of Saturday 12th April 2014 I visited the Kingston Upon Thames store of Metro Bank in an attempt to open a current account.
The store was open — they are open 7 days a week — but largely empty. There was a single member of staff visible, sat down at a desk with a customer.
I walked up to a deserted front desk and heard footsteps behind me. I turned to be greeted by that same member of staff who had obviously spotted I was looking a bit lost and come to greet me. He apologised that no one had greeted me, introduced himself, asked my name and what he could help me with. After explaining that I wanted to open a current account he said that someone would be with me very soon.
Within a few seconds another member of staff greeted me and asked me to come over to her desk. So far so good.
As she started to take my details I could see she was having problems with her computer. She kept saying it was so slow and made various other inaudible curses under her breath. She took my passport and said she was going to scan it, but from what I could see she merely photcopied it. Having no joy with her computer she said that she would fill in paper forms and proceeded to ask me for all of my details, writing them down on the forms. Her writing was probably neater than mine but this kind of dictation was rather tedious and to be quite honest I’d rather have done it myself.
This process took at least half an hour. I was rather disappointed as all their marketing boasts of same day quick online setup, get your bank details and debit card same day and so on.
Finally she went back to her computer, and then said, “oh dear, it’s come back saying it needs head office approval, so we won’t be able to open this right now. Would you be available to come back later today?”
“No, I’m busy for the rest of the day. To be honest I was expecting all this to be done online as I’m not really into visiting banks even if they are open 7 days a week…”
“Oh that’s alright, once it’s sorted out we should be able to post all the things to you.”
“This hardly ever happens. I don’t know why it’s happened. Even if I knew I wouldn’t be able to tell you. It’s rare but I have to wait for head office to approve the account.”
As she went off to sort something else out I overheard the conversation between the customer and staff member on the next table. He was telling the customer how his savings account couldn’t be opened today because it needed head office approval and it was very rare that this would happen.
I left feeling I had not achieved very much, but hopeful that it might get sorted out soon. It wasn’t a very encouraging start to my relationship with Metro Bank.
It’s now Tuesday 15th April, three days after my application was made or two working days, and I haven’t had any further communication from Metro Bank so I have no idea if my account is ever going to be opened. I don’t really have any motivation to chase them up. If I don’t hear soon then I’ll just go somewhere else.
I suppose in theory a bank branch that is open 7 days a week might be useful for technophobes who don’t use the Internet, but if the bank’s systems don’t work then all you’ve achieved is to have a large high street box full of people employed to tell you that everything is broken. Until 8pm seven days a week.
Update 2014-04-15 15:30: After contact on twitter, the Local Director of the Kingston branch called me to apologise and assure me that he is looking into the matter.
About 15 minutes later he called back to explain, roughly:
The reason the account was not approved on the day is that I’ve only been in my current address for 7 months, so none of the proofs of address would have been accepted. Under normal circumstances it is apparently possible to open an account with just a passport. If not then the head office approval or rejection should happen within 24 hours, but their systems are running a bit slowly. Someone should have called me to let me know this, but this did not happen. Apparently approval did in fact come through today – I am told someone was due to call me today with the news that my account has been opened. I should receive the card and cheque book tomorrow.
I’m glad this was so quickly resolved. I’m looking forward to using my account and hopefully everything will be smoother now.