A View From The Comms Team
Tina Coates is the Director of Corporate Affairs at Metro Bank.
Metro Bank first opened its doors in the summer of 2010, the first high street bank to open in the UK in over 100 years. It prides itself on being different. Every store is open 7 days a week, and from 8am–8pm on weekdays. Its branches have ‘magic money machines’ to count your coins, for kids and adults alike, and it famously has a special welcome for customers’ pets.
Tina spoke to us about the Metro Bank brand but also about her personal views about social mobility and ways of improving it.
PressChoice: Outside of the work you do for Metro Bank – what interests or activities are you involved with, that you feel are important?
Tina: I’m a governor at The Windsor Forest Colleges Group which provides 16+ education, set across three campuses in Berkshire and North Surrey, where students can do A levels and vocational learning.
I've been involved with them since 2015. I'm a huge believer of education as a way to promote social mobility. I'm passionate about helping young people realise their potential and improve their opportunities and their lives and I think education's a great way to do that.
Not everybody is an academic, and in my work as a governor at the college group, we work hard to help young people find employment and meaning and help them achieve their potential, regardless of their background or financial resources.
I'm just a huge believer that education is a way to improve people's lives. But I have to admit I didn’t do well in my first attempt at A levels. But I persevered and eventually got good grades and then went to university.
But that first stumble, was a real moment for me. I had friends around me whose parents said, you've had your opportunity and if you didn’t do well at A levels, you better think of a different path. But I had my family support to keep going and I ended up being the first person in the family ever to go to university.
PressChoice: What jobs taught you the most?
Tina: I spent quite a lot of time working in pubs. I think that ability to talk to anybody, to know how to diffuse difficult situations, to negotiate your way out of something, I think those interpersonal skills are a fantastic training for a career in all sorts of areas, but especially in communications. I think everyone should go and work in a pub – it’s a great learning ground.
PressChoice: What would you say to someone in the situation you were in your late teens, about the right way forward for your career and life?
Tina: I think it’s really important to open your eyes to the world and widen the influences you have. I know I benefitted from that. For example, I had an after school job in a firm of civil engineers and the people I was working for said ‘Why wouldn't you go to university?’ It helped open my eyes to the possibilities and opportunities I had. You need to try and be with people who can help widen your horizons. That doesn't have to be necessarily your parents. It can be teachers, friends or friends of friends.
I think maybe that's something that we should be doing in society, trying to get those positive influences in front of younger people that don't always have them in their home lives.
PressChoice: What is Metro Bank doing to help that social mobility?
Tina: It is an issue we are certainly aware of and try to act upon. For instance,
we very much try and bring people into the business based on their attitude and then train them up for the skills that they require. We hope that gives people an opportunity to join us, whatever their background. We then offer them clear steps and professional qualifications to take their career onwards.
Only this week, I was just reading about a colleague who had come into the business as a cashier, which is the entry level role, and has gone up the steps to get to local director level. That’s something we celebrate in the business, are aware of and really try to promote.
We work to encourage everyone to bring their whole selves to work, wherever they have come from, whatever their ethnicity or class, gender or sexuality. One of our guiding principles, is that we want to reflect the communities that we serve.
PressChoice: Banking has undergone huge changes in the past few years. Metro Bank is a challenger brand and has a very fresh feel to it, but it is still traditionally branch based. How complex a story is that to tell for the Comms team?
Tina: Metro Bank’s philosophy is ‘People-people banking’ and I think that one of the things that we're absolutely focused on, is providing that face-to-face to service although of course we have the app and on-line products as well.
Last year, we unveiled our intention to be the UK’s best community bank. That is very much the ethos of my colleagues and the whole business. You can see examples of that, for instance during the first lock down at our Cambridge branch colleagues made scrubs for nurses and doctors. Our Slough store was a recipient for a food bank. So, our colleagues want to go out and do more in their local communities, and that fits very nicely with our aim to be a part of the local communities we serve.
PressChoice: The banking industry has had a poorer reputation since the 2008 crash, how well has it recovered since then?
Tina: I think Metro Bank is viewed differently from many other banking brands. We genuinely are 100% focused on customer service and doing the right thing for our customers. Our company core purpose is to create fans amongst our customers.
PressChoice: You talk about fans as opposed to customers or creating customer loyalty. Why is that term important to you?
Tina: To be a fan of something, you have to really, really love it. It’s something you have to feel strongly about. You want to talk about it and feel close to it.
Not every customer is a fan of course, but we do everything we can to show them we are there with them and doing things in a different, fresh way. Being pet friendly is just one aspect of that, but it makes a difference. Why should you have to tie your dog up outside. We want everyone to bring their pets in to the store and as a result we have had customers bring in a pet skunk, some sheep and even a miniature pony.
We want you to be a fan of Metro bank and in return, we'll do everything we can to support you.
PressChoice: Is there something you'd say to your younger self, which you would have liked to have known?
Tina: My dad used a phrase which I wish I'd maybe believed a bit more, which is ‘You're as good as anyone else and better than many.’ Well, I’m not saying I am better than many, but I do wish I had the same belief in me that he had, a bit sooner.
Tina Coates can be found Tweeting at @TinaCoates
See other Comms leaders by clicking HERE