Can the Banking Market be Virginised?
Posted by Graham Harding on February 1, 2012
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You’ve got to hand it to Richard ‘Bolting’ Branson. One week he’s wondering who’s screwing us; next week he’s a speedy guy with an interesting complexion acquired for the Virgin Media ads.
And the new Virgin Money (after the acquisition of Northern Rock) is the non-screw version of banking. The ads promise a ‘better kind of bank’. Ok, it’s a ‘huge ambition’ and one which will ‘take time to achieve’ … but the principles are hard to question. Genuinely caring about you and your money, putting customer service ahead of cost-cutting, an end to ‘sting in the tail’ products, no excessive products and using ‘our expertise with money to do some good in the world’. Who could say no?
Branson has always positioned himself against the incumbents. Virgin Atlantic, his original Virgin Money offset account, even Virgin Trains were all ‘new’ players taking on what (in the context of financial services) Branson defined as the ‘FOG’ – the Financial Old Guard.
It’s just a shame that he seems to have borrowed someone else’s positioning. For Virgin Atlantic it was SouthWest Airlines; for Virgin Money’s new proposition it’s yet another American operation. Ally Bank in fact. OK, this is the ex GMAC operation that used to be General Motors’ vehicle for auto financing. Now – since May 2009 – it’s ‘new kind of bank’ that talks about being a ‘better kind of bank’.
Ally Bank’s website (http://www.ally.com/about) showcases three simple principles: talk straight, do right, be obviously better. Like Northern Rock, GMAC needed to be reinvented after rescue by the US Treasury.
Ally have just launched their new ‘love your bank’ commercials starring Rufus the Dalmatian (is it a coincidence that Cerberus Asset Management have a stake?). If Virgin Money starts on a love campaign or showcases four-legged friends then beware…
But, whatever else can be said about Branson, he’s always on trend. Always capable of cashing in on what’s going to be the future of financial services – the reinvention of trust. You know what? I hope he does set the agenda.