In 2018 at the Rose Theatre KU awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Letters to an American billionaire, Vernon Hill, and his dog ‘Duffy’. Uni managers milked a great deal of publicity out of how this innovative ‘banking hero’ was a role model for graduates, blah, blah, blah. A few weeks ago this controversial character, who is the boss of Metro Bank, along with his dog (they seem joined at the hip), gave a rambling talk to bemused Business studies students at Kingston Hill on how his bank has supposedly become a ‘legendary brand’ (his words) and the bank’s customers are not customers but ‘fans’. He also claimed: ‘My dog is the best known dog in Britain’.
Even the Business studies lecturers who attended looked embarrassed at this weird performance and Hill’s big boasts about Metro (‘open seven days a week’, all pets especially welcomed, best bank in Britain, etc, etc). Yet for the past few months Metro’s reputation has tanked. In a survey, its I.T. security system was found to be completely inadequate, making it one of the worst banks in Britain for security of customer accounts. Just a couple of weeks ago the troubled bank also had to negotiate a £375m emergency rescue deal as it admitted customers had been scrambling to withdraw their money amid major concerns about is future. Shares in the bank have plunged since January this year, and in the last few weeks Metro have announced plans to save up to £75m by slashing costs in its branches and head office by cutting jobs. Investors have also been raising questions about Vernon Hill himself, and calls for him to go are likely to intensify.
So the question lecturers at Kingston Hill are asking is, was it really wise for their Dean and other SLT members to hold up Hill as a role model for KU’s students? Even worse for Spier and his mob of bickering senior managers, any hope they might have entertained that being extra nice to Mr. Hill and Duffy might result in a big donation of cash to KU’s threadbare coffers seems to be slipping away very fast. As one senior lecturer at Kingston Hill said loudly in a recent meeting, KU’s loony love affair with Hill can only be described as ‘barking’.