Richard Branson’s entrance into the decrepit, tawdry world of high street banking is now
rolling forward at lightning speed. The tycoon has purchased the failed lender, Northern Rock, from the government after its nationalisation four years ago; many are saying at too low a price. Nonetheless, the fearless entrepreneur is now ready to take on the big four brands of Barclays, Lloyds, RBS and HSBC. It would certainly be a feather in his cap if he could turn the public around on this ‘banking dilemma.’
Chief executive of the business, Jayne-Anne Gadhia, had this to say recently in The Guardian newspaper, “We have a unique opportunity to build a new kind of bank in the UK. A bank that’s honest, fair and transparent. A bank that will aim to make a real difference and provide enhanced competition in UK retail banking.” The taxpayer still owns the bailed-out part of the bank, Northern Rock Asset Management, but Branson’s eyes are firmly set on winning the hearts and minds of the high street. It can be done, but the hitherto unknown levels of PR needed, will certainly exceed the £10m advertising budget currently in store.
75 high street branches of Northern Rock are soon set to become Virgin Money, and this should make for an interesting exercise in one man’s ego, and perhaps a rehabilitation of the most derided sector of business the world has every known (hey, even prostitutes have street cred!). In fairness, the current opinion polls on the likes of banking brands and their CEO’s couldn’t be any lower, but the question remains, what will be different this time around? If the above ethos is put in place, never mind the snazzy advertisements, it’s certainly a first step. Next, eradicating queues, providing loans and mortgages at a decent price and not playing with the public’s money in a reckless and opportunistic way – and then you’re on to a winner. But, as one snarky comment revealed on The Guardian’s website, if the service is anywhere as bad as his trains, it’ll be more of the same but with a new paint job. C’mon Richard, prove them wrong!