Metro Bank, the first high street bank to be launched in the UK in over a century, opened its first branch in July with a company-wide outsourced, pay-as-you-grow IT infrastructure.

Craig Donaldson, chief executive of the bank, told Computerworld UK that having an efficient IT system was “crucial” to the bank’s launch. Metro Bank is attempting to offer an improved banking experience with services including instant credit or debit card issuing in-branch, and long opening hours covering seven days a week.

The bank has four branches and will have opened 40 more by the next four years, eventually hitting a total of 200 stores by 2020. But it only has five in-house IT staff, because of the outsourcing arrangement. Metro Bank outsourced its IT setup and maintenance to Niu Solutions, a company formed by the merger of Telinet, EVD, Pasporte and Ipitomi. The bank has a ‘pay as you grow’ contract that will cost more and provide more services as it expands.

Under the contract, for which financial details were not disclosed, services include infrastructure and software management, on-site and hosted voice, data, virtual desktop services, mobility, connectivity, website, user helpdesk and data centre services.

Metro Bank operates principally on the Temenos banking platform, widely used in the industry. Its other applications, including a mixture of Oracle, SAP and IBM software, are hosted in two data centres, one in London and one outside.  The bank said the applications were secure and servers were highly virtualised.

“New customers can open accounts with a rapid opening procedure and are issued permanent bank cards instantly, and we employ the best that technology can offer to achieve this,” said Donaldson, who added that the IT platform would expand with the company’s growth and be adaptable to changing financial industry regulation.

Availability was key, he said. “We wanted one company to go to for our service. The IT has to work, if it goes down you know about it and so do the customers.” The bank has a service level agreement for 99.99 percent availability.

As with other banks, Metro Bank already offers online services but will add mobile phone banking next year. Other projects include personalisation of cards in-store and RFID tags for mobile phones, enabling them to be used for contactless payments.