In recent weeks there has been much media speculation about Metro Bank following its well-publicised financial challenges. Many of the published articles focus on its branch-based network and discuss whether branches remain viable in today’s digital world. Its co-founder has been very clear that in his opinion the bank has opened too many branches and should close some. Many analysts appear to agree that branches are finished.
Here at North West Mutual, we’re planning a bank that goes in the opposite direction. We understand all the arguments in favour of digital and recognise that for many banks, the move online makes financial sense. However, we believe there remains a place in the market for a local bank that knows its customers and provides them with the in-person banking facilities that many desire, while being profitable and stable.
Our vision is for a bank which is rooted in its community with deep connections to its customers and to other local stakeholders. Our bank will be owned by its members, following in the tradition of the mutual sector that has served its communities so well for over two centuries. We don’t believe that banking should have to exist solely to profit external shareholders – we believe that it should be owned by its members and exist to serve the interests of the people it serves. In this, we follow in the footsteps of another movement – the great co-operative movement that started here in the North West.
So how will we make it work? We recognise that traditional branches are resource heavy. They often occupy expensive prominent locations, have large floorplates, and employ significant numbers of staff. When set up like this, a branch will inevitably be expensive. That’s not the model we will employ.
We envisage a branch network of around 70 branches, made up of a small number of what we will call ‘Super Branches’, which will perhaps look a little like the traditional branch described above, and a larger number of smaller and only partially staffed branches. Some of them could even be unmanned.
Our branches will be designed to meet the needs of modern society. They will open 24/7. Our research tells us that if we do this, then after 6pm in the evening our branch network will represent 100% of the available branch network in the North West. By doing this, our branches will be available when people actually need them, rather than simply when it is convenient to staff them.
Our branches will also provide access to cash facilities which will be particularly relevant to the SME sector. Our plan means that 95% of the North West population will live within a 30 minute drive of one of our branches, and many will be very close. Our branches will enable small cash-based businesses to operate with less friction and wasted effort. They will be able to get on with serving their own customers and thereby be better able to grow.
We’ll also provide access to an experience bank manager who knows their community, either in person, or via video link to the branch. Lending decisions will be made by a real human, marking a welcome end to the ‘computer says no’ approach that so many small businesses experience from their current bank.
Our bank will cater for the full spread of society, from private individuals through to SMEs. It will provide a full range of banking services such as current accounts, online banking, mortgages, loans, debit cards, and savings facilities. Our bank will offer the best of modern digital technology including apps and smart payment systems and the many advantages of relationships between people who are not strangers to each other.
Banking is changing. We all know that. But is it changing because customers demand it, or because the banks are forcing change to please their shareholders? Banking can change and evolve whilst still meeting the core needs of its customers. North West Mutual will be a leader in restoring banking that people can be proud of.
Should you wish to help NWM make the North West a better place to bank please “like” or make a comment and we will be in touch.
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North West Mutual Ltd is registered with the FCA under the Co-operative and Community Benefit Societies Act 2014 as a Co-operative Society number 4705