February 22, 2011

When Metro Bank, the London-based brainchild of Commerce Bank founder Vernon Hill, opened its doors to great fanfare last July, along with its novelty offerings of seven-day service and free dog biscuits, it offered a a 15-minute account opening, complete with debit card, credit card, checks, and an online banking account (provided the customer has photographic proof of ID). At rival London banks, anyone opening a bank account has to wait at least a week for a card and PIN.

How did the bank achieve this quick account setup for its new branches? "Technology is the answer," said CEO Craig Donaldson in a recent phone interview. "Because we've been able to build all our systems as straight-through processes, we're able to gather a lot of information, identify customers and undertake Know Your Customer and Anti-Money Laundering rules in an automated, quick way. Whilst doing that, we run credit checks in the background, so by the time I've finished keying everything in, I've completed AML, KYC and credit checks. It takes two minutes to print the card out and provide a finished checkbook."

Metro Bank's core banking engine is Temenos' T24 Model Bank system, hosted by Niu, which also hosts Metro's data centers, telephony and shared services. A FICO Blaze decision engine helps make quick account decisions. The bank links into databases of credit rating agencies such as Equifax to perform the credit checks.

A team of four IT people put together the straight-through process and supervise the outsourcing arrangement for the bank, which hopes to set up eight more branches this year.

The bank also uses document imaging to improve branch efficiency. It takes a photo of each new customer and scans any documents related to the account into a document management system. "Once you've opened an account, when you walk in, put your card in the card reader, and enter your PIN, it brings up your photo, your signature and all account information on one screen," Donaldson says.

Next up, Metro Bank has put out an RFP for software specialists to create a mobile banking platform that will be device agnostic, to roll out mobile banking across iPhones, Androids and other smartphones. The bank has narrowed down its list to two providers and expects to soon make a final decision. The mobile banking apps will also be hosted by Niu.

Why does the bank do so much outsourcing? "Because by outsourcing I can focus on customers and giving customers what they want," Donaldson says. "We believe you should outsource everything that isn't customer facing."

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