Metro Bank has officially confirmed it is to open in Ashford, further boosting the town's credentials as the best business location in Kent.
Up to 25 jobs will be created when Metro Bank moves into the High Street, in a prominent location at the entrance to County Square shopping centre. The challenger bank has ambitious plans to expand its branch network to 100 by 2020 - it currently has 57 in London and the South East.
Metro Bank arrives as Ashford's town centre continues to thrive, with more than half a billion pounds worth of investment in new retail, leisure, residential and commercial property schemes as businesses and investors show their faith in the town's future prospects.
Iain Kirkpatrick, managing director - retail banking at Metro Bank, said:
"Last year, we brought the banking revolution to Canterbury and after such a warm welcome from the residents of Kent, from the local community, we're expanding in the county and opening another seven-day-a-week, customer-focused store in Ashford.
"We picked Ashford for its vibrant community, exciting future developments, commercial culture and efforts to create a civic heartbeat. We believe Metro Bank will fit right in, with our friendly and convenient banking. Our stores provide tangible benefits to local businesses and residents, whether that's through our free-to-use coin counting machines, instant account opening with cards printed on-the-spot, or hosting business networking and community events."
Metro Bank has signed a deal to move into a 3,990 sq ft unit in County Square formerly occupied by Clinton Cards; in addition, it has acquired an adjoining 1,190 sq ft unit used by jewellers Warren James, which is moving elsewhere in County Square. Metro Bank will combine the two units.
Metro Bank was the first high street bank to open in the UK in more than 100 years when it launched in 2010 and was listed on the London Stock Exchange in 2016. It already has stores in three Kent towns and its expansion plans are in marked contrast to the current programme of branch closures pursued by its bigger High Street rivals.
Responding to the official announcement, Cllr Graham Galpin, Ashford Borough Council's portfolio holder for the town centre and business, said:
"We are delighted that such a dynamic, innovative and highly-regarded financial services company has recognised the many benefits of including Ashford in its expansion plans.
"Ashford has been identified by investment agency Locate in Kent as the best place to do business in the county and I'm sure Metro Bank will be a hugely welcome addition to our thriving local economy."
County Square manager Frances Burt said:
"To attract a high street brand of the calibre of Metro Bank is very pleasing for us. County Square has just celebrated its 10th anniversary and last year our visitor figures broke through the six million mark for the first time. I'm thrilled that companies like Metro Bank have the confidence to include Ashford in their expansion plans."
Ashford's growth is underpinned by the town's unrivalled connectivity. It has excellent rail, road, air and sea links providing businesses with easy access to 360 million consumers across Europe. These include the high-speed domestic rail service which links Ashford with London St Pancras in just 38 minutes, while Paris is less than two hours by Eurostar.