Belfast Telegraph

Metro Bank chief to 'keep calm and carry on' after 'brain flipped' over Brexit

Metro Bank is pressing ahead with ambitious expansion plans as the lender's boss vows to "keep calm and carry on" in the face of Brexit.

The challenger bank's chief executive, Craig Donaldson, told the Press Association that his "brain flipped" when the referendum result was announced, but he is determined to continue growing the bank.

The Sunderland-born boss said: "I voted to remain. My brain flipped as soon as Brexit was announced, but now my job is to negotiate Metro Bank through the Brexit process as well as I can and as positively as I can.

"There is a stoic 'Let's just get on with it' nature to us, and I mean us in our broadest and most beautiful sense with how cosmopolitan we are. There's never been a more apt time for that poster - 'Keep Calm and Carry On' - because we going to keep calm and carry on building the bank."

Mr Donaldson said that he wants to expand Metro Bank's current 44-branch network to 100 by 2020, creating 2,500 extra jobs and doubling the staff roster in the process.

The FTSE 250 firm is on track to have one million customer accounts by the first half of next year, which the chief executive says will make it a "proper player".

The lender is also benefitting from its two "drive thru" branches in Southall and Slough, which have proved popular with business customers, with plans for more outlets in the pipeline.

Last week Metro Bank took a step closer to becoming profitable after a strong set of results in the third quarter, with Mr Donaldson moving to allay any Brexit fears.

He added: "We've seen no impact from Brexit. Will we? I don't know. We've always taken a prudent approach to our lending. We grew through the double-dip recession, so we've proven that we can grow through good times and bad times."

However, Mr Donaldson confessed that his pro-EU stance has led to "many an argument over a pint" in Sunderland pubs. The city has become a poster child for Brexit as it was the first to declare in favour of quitting the EU.

The chief executive joined Lloyds boss Antonio Horta-Osorio in calling on the Government to ramp up infrastructure spending in the Autumn Statement in order to foster growth.

"I want the Chancellor to support infrastructure investment, because it's the lifeblood of growth.

"As a UK PLC, we are looking positively to the future and how we can step into that future. We shouldn't be hunkering down, we should be proud and loud."