Press Release

UK’s Metro Bank Vulnerable to Cost, Funding and Capital Pressures

Banking Organizations
October 05, 2023

DBRS Morningstar commented that Metro Bank (unrated by DBRS Morningstar) is facing a number of serious stresses in relation to costs, funding and capital.

• The small UK retail and commercial challenger bank, with total assets of GBP 21.7 billion at end June 2023, has publicly noted that it is evaluating a number of options including a combination of equity issuance, debt issuance and/ or refinancing and asset sales, however we consider its ability to access external financing to be highly constrained given its very low market cap. Nevertheless, DBRS Morningstar would not expect the difficulties being experienced by Metro Bank to have a broader impact on the UK financial sector given its relatively small size and the specific issues the bank has experienced dating back to 2019 when it reported a serious miscalculation of RWAs. This event led to a negative impact on its reputation and fines from the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulatory Authority of GBP 10 million and GBP 5 million respectively.

• Metro Bank, which was established in 2010, has reported weak profitability since set-up and reported a very weak cost-income ratio of 90% in H1 2023 and 106% in FY2022. Whilst we note that its loan book appears to be performing in line with peers, Metro Bank has been facing a number of structural issues including an elevated cost base, which has led to the bank reporting net losses since 2019. Moreover, the bank has continued to invest in expanding its physical branch network whilst its larger rivals have been decreasing theirs. The higher interest rate environment has benefitted the bank’s revenues since 2022 as assets have repriced, however, it has not seen its Net Interest Margin (2.14% in H1 2023 and 1.92% in FY2022) increase to the same extent as larger rivals due to its lower margin lending and higher funding costs, particularly due to expensive wholesale funding. Whilst the bank has made some progress in reducing operating costs since 2021, the bank has a very high cost base which reflects high investments in its branch network and in IT which has been exacerbated recently with the high level of inflation.

• On the funding side, although the bank has built up a large deposit base with a loan to deposit ratio of 82%, it has a large proportion of commercial and SME deposits (52% of total customer deposits) that are potentially less-sticky than retail deposits and the bank has also paid high rates for its retail deposits as well as high rates on its wholesale funding, including GBP 350 million of 9.5% senior non-preferred bonds with a call date of 8 October 2024 and final maturity of October 2025 which will require refinancing. Customer deposits have also declined since 2021, driven by increasing competition and also reflecting that households and SMEs are using the significant liquidity buffers built up during the pandemic to face the more challenging economic environment of high interest rates and inflation.

• We note that the bank is facing a number of serious capital challenges after several years of operating losses. It was still rebuilding its credibility following the miscalculation of RWAs in 2019, and has not yet been able to get the regulatory approval for its AIRB application for residential mortgages which would lower its capital needs. It currently has very narrow capital buffers, reporting a Tier 1 ratio of 10.4% compared to its regulatory requirement of 9.8% and its total regulatory capital plus MREL of 18.1% is below its minimum requirement including buffers of 20.2%.