Firing Line: Anthony Thomson

Anthony Thomson is best known for setting up Metro Bank. Launched in 2010, it was designed to make the banking experience more appealing to the average customer, and has since opened 21 branches around the southeast of England.

He has a few more ideas in the pipeline, spotting opportunities where he can see commercial advantage. But most recently, he has become chairman of the National Skills Academy of Financial Services, as he is keen to champion the body and the more altruistic side of financial services.

“I wanted to formalise my charitable involvement for some time,” he said. “I think the financial services industry is really important and having well-educated consumers is good for us and good for the consumer.”

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But he believes that skills in the industry are also important. “I’ve been in the financial services industry for 30 years and in all my experience in that time, the companies that do well and that differentiate themselves are those with the best people. It’s about people with the right attitude and the people with the right skills,” he said.

The NSAFS is a charity that assists companies in their training and helps bring new people into the sector with apprenticeships. It runs financial capability projects for large corporates involved in social responsibility programmes, as well as helping businesses whether small or large recruit new people. Financial advice firms have also benefited.

Mr Thomson said: “In all the time I’ve been in business, the role [of the intermediary] has become more complex and more highly regulated. The need for skills becomes more important. Those IFAs who develop their skills and activities further generally do better and and their custmers do better.

“In the case of pensions, it will be the second largest financial transaction people will make in their lives – in some cases it will be bigger than their mortgage. It’s the duty of IFAs to make sure they’re equipped to advise clients correctly.”

Mr Thomson is an entrepreneur by background. He went into direct marketing at an early stage in his career and found himself moving into financial services, with Sun Life of Canada. After working as sales and marketing director for four years, he saw the opportunities available with the arrival of the Big Bang and decided to set up his own business.

With the launch of City Financial Group, which he ran for 11 years, Mr Thomson aimed to take advantage of the new rules and technical knowledge that City firms needed navigate the new arena.

He also launched the Financial Services Forum, a membership organisation that attempts to help financial services executives improve their marketing.

But it is Metro Bank that Mr Thomson is most closely associated with, known for opening on Sundays and offering water bowls for customers’ pet dogs.

Of Metro, which is expected to go public next year, Mr Thomson said: “I believe the most important thing to customers is value. One of the things I’m very passionate about is that profit is a by-product of doing something well for the customer. One of the problems with UK financial services is that a large part has forgotten that and thinks it’s in business to make money.