A Yankee Banker Stuns the U.K.

An Incredible Marketing Lesson—The Tale of Two Websites!

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.

Denny Hatch is the author of six books on marketing and four novels, and is a direct marketing writer, designer and consultant. His latest book is “Write Everything Right!” Visit him at dennyhatch.com.

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  • Christopher Trum

    I wanted to start by saying that I love reading your articles and appreciate the honest opinions you provide. As I was reading your recent article on British banking, however, I was a bit confused as to why you chose to compare Metro Bank to the Bank of England? In my mind, this seems a strange comparison to make, as the equivalent example in the US would be to compare the Federal Reserve Bank with someone like Capital One.

    Just wondering why you didn’t choose to compare two banking sites that offer a more similar set of services. I would certainly expect that Metro Bank and the Bank of England to have websites that greatly differ in content, as they are not intended for the same type of audience.

    Maybe showing Metro Bank versus either Airdrie Saving Bank (http://www.airdriesavingsbank.net//) or Raphaels Bank (http://www.raphaelsbank.com/) to show two banks that offer the same things to the same types of customers, but using very different approaches.

  • Guest

    Not that I disagree, but your choice of the Bank of England could be better. Would you compare the Federal Reserve website with that of even TD bank, or a Chase or Citibank? Lloyds Bank or HSBC would have been a better choice.

  • Nancy Re

    I agree with your comments on both Commerce Bank and TD bank. Commerce was truly customer friendly / helpful, TD can be inflexible and actually unfriendly.

    Now to top off so-so customer service they call you with a survey after you go to the bank to question how the visit was. Unfortunately, they do not use simple" how often have they visited" or "how often should we contact" the customer. I was contacted multiple times in a 2 week period, having made multiple deposits for various reasons/accounts. Considering they have a client database and have the client data file connected to each account they should be able to limit the repetition of the survey calls. So an annoyed customer is then annoyed more by their survey company.