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A Yankee Banker Stuns the U.K.

An Incredible Marketing Lesson—The Tale of Two Websites!

February 18, 2014 By Denny Hatch
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Many years ago I had a client in the insurance business. He loved Bermuda. The Bermuda financial community welcomed him warmly.

He used to put on conferences in Bermuda and invited me to be a presenter. You'd have to be nuts not to take advantage of tax-free jaunts to Bermuda.

My friend then went to London with the idea of opening an office. When he applied to several banks to open personal and business accounts, he was turned down cold.

"We must have references from someone with whom you have done business in the U.K.," they told him. Not just a B-to-B recommendation, but instead a personal nod from a customer who is a trusted friend of the banker.

My Bermuda insurance friend said screw London and concentrated on growing his business in the U.S.

A New Bank in the Neighborhood
Back in the 1990s, Commerce Brank opened a branch two blocks away from our Center City Philly digs. It was the brainchild of Vernon Hill, a true P.T. Barnum character who had once worked for McDonald's Ray Croc.

The grand opening was a hoot: balloons, a clown, hot dogs and a Philadelphia Phillies baseball player signing autographs.

Having just had a fight with the Wachovia branch in the next block, I gleefully opened an account at Commerce. Among the previously unheard-of goodies:

  • Open 7 days a week, including evenings
  • Free checking
  • Free safe deposit box
  • Free coin counting machine (Kids loved it as do I!)

Banking at Commerce was a giggle.

I miss it terribly.

Hill Ousted
Alas, Vernon Hill ran afoul of U.S. regulators and was thrown out of banking.

My terrific bank branch was taken over by TD (Toronto Dominion) Bank. In comparison, it is today weak piss.

"The Best Damn Banker Alive" Takes London by Storm
Fortune/CNN's senior-editor-at-large Shawn Tully described the wild scene of Vernon Hill's Metro Bank opening in London:

 
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