Some weird events going on in Kingston Business School. And some students are wondering how long it will be before the ‘Kingston Vernon Hill Centre’ is announced. with a fanfare.
The University’s love affair with Vernon Hill, the controversial boss of Metro Bank, has taken another step towards full-blown marriage when the eccentric American chairman (and his dog ‘Duffy’) gave the first Strategy into Practice lecture to a room of puzzled Business students at Kingston Hill. The lecture theatre (which, contrary to the Uni’s fawning write up was not ‘packed’) took on a bizarre atmosphere as the famous double-act of Hill and Duffy described their business strategy: Hill, who is also CEO of Commerce Bancorp in New Jersey and chair of Pet Plan North America (hardly models of ethical integrity) began his talk by asking who in the audience ‘wants to be rich or a star?’ Everyone excelled at something, he said getting all excited, ‘and superstars are just individuals who understand their unique talents’ (meaning himself, obviously).
Hill claimed Metro Bank in Britain has become a ‘legendary brand’ which does not have branches but ‘stores’, and whose customers are not customers but ‘fans’ (eh?). He also babbled endlessly on about his dog, Duffy. ‘My dog is the best known dog in Britain’. It goes everywhere with him, he said, and even helped him pick up his Honorary Doctorate of Letters at the Rose last summer (Doctorate scrolls make tasty pet food). He also told the Kingston Hill students that all the other banks in Britain are ’50 years behind the world’, are ‘burdened by the past’ and their ‘awful’ (his word) I.T., ‘which is only one step above a quill’.
He then signed, for anybody who wanted it, a revised edition of his book ‘Fans! Not customers’. All very nice. But the trouble is Metro’s own I.T. and security record has just been heavily criticised by Which? consumer group. And just this week, the Bank has been forced to tap investors for £350 million, scale back its growth plans and rejig its board as it desperately seeks to plug a capital hole caused by a very serious accounting error. Both the Bank of England’s Regulation Authority and the Financial Conduct Authority have also announced they are investigating Metro Bank over the events that led to this huge accounting blunder. If KU bothered to ask, any good Business Studies student could tell the Uni the blindingly obvious: this is NOT a bank to hold up to students as a managerial role model. But, for some reason, Spier and also the Business Dean etc seem completely in awe of one man and his dog.