With technology news travels fast. And fake news can drive any company into controversy or worse – failure. UK-based fintech Metro Bank was the latest company to fall victim after a WhatsApp message was circulated in London on Saturday May 11 about the challenger bank facing financial difficulties and urged customers to withdraw their cash and valuables immediately.
As a result, dozens of Metro Bank clients stampeded to the company’s Harrow branch, demanding the withdrawal of their money and possessions, Business Insider reports.
The message as posted by one customer on Twitter read: “Urgent. Guys if anyone has Metro bank account with money or locker. You need to empty as soon as possible. The bank is facing lot of financial difficulties and may be shut down or going bankrupt. Their share price and market capital has dropped by 85% since last year and they may not get funding. If your money or locket gets trapped might be harder to pull money out or even loss. Please withdraw all lockers and keep in a safe place.”
Another customer said on Twitter: “Rumour or not, as like with anything… It’s best to get out whilst you still can. Just in case, something does indeed happen. #MetroBank #timetomakeaswitchnow.”
To this, Metro Bank replied and said: “No need to be concerned. We’re a profitable bank, rated no.1 for personal current account service [and] committed to serving our 1.7 [million] customer accounts. We issued our Q1 financial results earlier this month and have had a solid start to the year.”
Despite these attempts to put out the fires, this false rumour saw the share prices fall by 11% on Monday May 13 to an all-time low of 475p per share. It’s clearly having a tough time financially after it disclosed a 50% slump in its quarterly profits. Furthermore, the second largest shareholder in the bank, Fidelity, cut its stake from 7.6% to 5.4%, The Guardian reported. And, as a result the bank announced its plans to raise £350m to strengthen its finances.
Indeed, Metro Bank can’t rest on its laurels and to compete with both established and challenger banks it must ensure it’s customers don’t fall into the traps of fake news. The story also highlights just how quickly lies can spread through the use of technology. And with innovations like Deepfake videos, knowing what’s real is far from easy.