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Metro Bank founder to quit as chair in December after dreadful year

Oscar Williams-Grut
Senior City Correspondent, Yahoo Finance UK
Founder and Vice Chairman Vernon Hill II with his dog Duffy, outside the Metro Bank branch in Holborn, central London. Photo: John Stillwell/PA Images via Getty Images

Metro Bank (MTRO.L) has confirmed chairman Vernon Hill II will step down from the company’s board at the end of December.

The struggling lender said on Wednesday that Hill, who founded the bank in 2010, will resign his role as chairman on 31 December to make way for an independent chair.

Metro Bank had previously announced that Hill would step down, but had not set a firm date.

“Vernon is the inspiration behind Metro Bank, the first high street bank to open in the UK in over 100 years,” Sir Michael Snyder, senior independent director at Metro Bank, said in a statement on Wednesday.

“It is thanks to his vision and leadership that we have grown to 70 stores around the country, serving over 1.8 million customer accounts and we've twice been ranked as the number one bank for overall quality of service for personal banking.

“The Board shares Vernon's view that Metro Bank has now reached a point where an independent chairperson is appropriate to oversee the next stage of our journey."

Hill’s departure comes after a dreadful year for the bank that has seen its share price fall by over 90% since January.

Metro Bank said at the start of the year that it had misclassified some loans and, as a result, did not have the required regulatory capital to cover its books. It was forced to raise £375m to shore up its accounts and is still hunting additional cash.

Last month the company was forced to pull a planned £200m bond sale due to lack of investor interest, further denting the share price.

Credit rating agency Fitch downgraded Metro deeper into “junk” investment status earlier this week, prompting another share price slide. The bank said on Monday it was “confident” it would meet regulatory capital requirements by January 2020.

Metro Bank's share price decline in 2019. Photo: Yahoo Finance UK

Hill’s departure comes after calls from investors for management change at the bank.

Hill is seen as an unusual figure in UK banking. The American invested heavily in building a branch network for Metro Bank at a time when other banks were closing branches at a record rate or going digital-only.

Hill also refers to his customers as “fans”, is often pictured with his Yorkshire terrier Duffy, and claims to personally inspect each new Metro branch before it opens. He has been known to play golf with US president Donald Trump.

Metro Bank has also faced controversy over Hill’s business practices. He was criticised for paying his wife £21m since 2010 for design services at Metro Bank branches, and for paying for private jets on company expenses.

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Oscar Williams-Grut covers banking, fintech, and finance for Yahoo Finance UK. Follow him on Twitter at @OscarWGrut.

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