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Barry Angel

Metro Bank

Head of HR

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HRD Insight: Metro Bank’s Barry Angel talks recruitment outsourcing

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When Metro Bank opened the doors of its inaugural branch in July 2010, it became the first new bank on the British high street in over 100 years. The reason why the founders decided to throw their weight behind the new venture was because they passionately believed that customers of existing players were simply not getting the service they deserved.

The bank aims to have at least 200 sites by 2020 and is taking a radically different approach to customer service, for example, by providing opening hours that are more associated with retail than banking. We also open accounts with minimal fuss and offer a range of features designed to make customers’ lives that little bit simpler such as coin counting machines and even dog bowls to help out pet owners.

 
So how have we gone about sourcing the people that we need to turn the dream into a reality, people with a genuine commitment to great customer service?
 
Building the basics
 
Right from the beginning, we were faced with a clear choice regarding talent acquisition – either handle all recruitment ourselves, whether directly or by using external agencies, or outsource the process to a dedicated partner, a professional recruitment process outsourcing specialist.
 
We took the view that to provide customers with the best possible service, we should focus our efforts on the areas where we interface directly with them. We consequently decided to outsource a number of process-driven areas such as IT and recruitment to niche partners – organisations that could demonstrate they were ’best of breed’, while providing us with the flexibility and scalability we would need as the business grew.
 
We invited four RPO specialists to pitch for the work – three well-established players with what appeared to be good track records and a relatively new entrant to the market, Consort Group. In early 2009, after a very rigorous tendering process, our decision was unanimous. Instead of opting for one of the ‘usual suspects’, we partnered with Consort.
 
So why did we turn down the obvious and go for what might seem the more risky strategy?
 
Its people were all highly experienced recruitment professionals, but then, so were many of the individuals we met at the other firms. What really stood out was the fit between our two cultures. Metro Bank is a business built on entrepreneurship and the more we talked to it, the more we realised that we were dealing with people who believed in that concept just as much as we do.
 
The best entrepreneurs build successful businesses because they are committed to delivery, because they understand the value of great customer service and because they don’t come to you with problems but with solutions. We were going to build the next big thing in high street banking through passion and commitment and were convinced that our new partner would help us to do that because they were as passionate and committed as us.
 
Getting the job done
 
Consort’s first tasks were to build the programme team that would actually create the bank and to start preparing to recruit staff for the first set of branches. Sourcing the programme team meant finding an initial 20, then 40, high-calibre professionals from key areas such as risk and compliance, finance, project management and operations at a time when the financial crisis was making such people cautious about a career move. And to make the project even more challenging they needed to be sourced before Metro could be awarded its Financial Services Authority licence.
 
Yet despite the daunting nature of the project, our RPO partner ensured that the team was in place and operational within a very short space of time.
 
While this key initial phase was underway, it also started working with us to create a framework for branch recruitment. This meant defining the values and competencies that all employees would need to demonstrate and embedding them into actual job specs. It also meant creating pre-screening processes and assessment centres that would identify candidates with the right service ethic.
 
Recruitment for the branches – or stores as we prefer to call them – commenced in mid-2009 when we began sourcing our store managers. The challenge here was to identify and engage with the right people and then to keep them warm until we were ready to bring them on board.
 
Given the fact that we still didn’t have our licence at this time, it meant convincing them that we had a genuinely viable proposition worth waiting for. And wait they did. So by the time the licence was granted in February 2010, our first tranche of store managers was in place and preparing for D-Day.
 
The second wave of store recruitment kicked off towards the end of 2009, with advertising across major job boards, social media campaigns and the beginning of talent-pooling for the business as a whole. By December of that year, we were running assessment centres that would provide us with the cashiers and customer service representatives for the first wave of stores.
 
Preparing for the future
 
When our first store opened for business in July 2010, people queued around the block from 7am to get a new account. Since then, we’ve gone on to open seven more locations, with Uxbridge due to join the network in October.
 
Over the coming year, we’ll be working with Consort to further refine our recruitment processes, but whatever we do, we’ll continue focusing absolutely on sourcing people who completely buy into the concept of great customer service.
 
And that means bringing people on board, not just from the banking sector itself, but from other service-based industries. In fact, if you look at our recruitment figures for last year, only around 60% of new staff came from within banking, with the rest having been employed in other areas of the retail sector. We believe that this sort of mix is vital if we are to truly set ourselves apart from the competition.
 
So far, the decision to go with our RPO partner has been a very successful one. It has already helped us to recruit over 300 people, is tasked with finding around 100 more by the end of the year and is planning how to meet our needs right through to 2014. And when you think that there were just ten of us on board when we signed it up, that’s certainly no small achievement.
 
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Barry Angel

Head of HR

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