In a bid to set the business apart from other financial institutions discredited by the banking crisis, Virgin Money – a relatively new entrant to the banking sector – is thinking laterally.
The Richard Branson-owned business is attempting to gain consumer trust by breaking the rules of traditional financial services marketing, says Paul Lloyd, chief marketing officer at Virgin Money.
“We don’t have a legacy from the past and people expect us to simplify and make things easier for them. Even with these new challenges, the age-old one remains – engaging consumers in a category that many find confusing and have a low interest in.”
Virgin Money has developed a marketing strategy that centres on fairness to help rebuild much needed confidence among customers. The policy of fairness, says Lloyd, is not just a marketing strategy, it runs through every part of the business. “Everything we do at Virgin Money is underpinned with the ambition to ‘make everyone better off’ (EBO). By everyone we mean customers, staff, society, partners and shareholders.”
New entrants like Virgin Money have been quick to distance their business practices from the underhand motives many consumers believe to be at the root of the banking crisis. That’s what EBO is trying to show consumers, claims Lloyd. “It is the guiding principle for everything we do as a business. We are looking for positive outcomes for all stakeholders, not just the single-minded pursuit of profit maximisation.”
To counter the image of banks as heartless institutions ruthlessly in pursuit of profit, Virgin Money has taken steps to demonstrate to consumers that it is not only fair in its banking practices, but also that it is giving something back. The company invests some of its profits in not-for-profit online fundraising website virginmoneygiving.com, which has helped raise more than £15m for good causes.
As the official sponsor of the London Marathon, it also hopes to help runners raise more than £250m over five years.
Virgin Money believes this type of initiative will help to win over cynical consumers who have negative perceptions of the financial services sector. Lloyd says: “UK plc needs to build a sustainable banking sector, focused on delivering value to the economy outside its own financial bubble. To do this requires significant reform of the structure, regulation, governance and culture of the industry.”