Virgin Money unveils its plans for Yorkshire businesses

Why we wanted to offer local SMES more choice and they’ve come to us in their thousands, writes Gavin Opperman, Group Business Director, Virgin Money.

Virgin Money plans to "keep our customers at the centre of our work"

At Virgin Money, we’ve been committed to getting our SME customers through the Covid-19 pandemic, but we’ve also been working on improving the support we give businesses under our new brand, Virgin Money Business.

When the Banking Competition Remedies Limited (BCR) announced the launch of the Incentivised Switching Scheme and Capability and Innovation Fund back in 2018, to increase competition in SME banking, we knew it was an opportunity to grow our market share. Competition in this part of our industry was limited, and the two schemes were designed to encourage and move customers away from the Royal Bank of Scotland, now Natwest, to other banking providers.

From the outset we shared the view that it was vital that SMEs were offered more choice and in preparation for the launch of the switching scheme we invested in our business. We also spoke to SMEs to understand what they wanted from their banking relationship and crafted a unique customer proposition that was the most competitive within the Incentivised Switching scheme, including 25 months free banking, and a full range of product offerings for businesses of all sizes.

We boosted our relationship manager population and delivered a programme of customer experience enhancements. We also invested in the creation of a dedicated switching team, based in Leeds, whose sole focus was ensuring the smooth transition of new customers into the bank.

Huge numbers

The switching scheme closed in June of this year and a few of weeks ago the BCR released the performance data. In total, 69,135 SMEs moved their Business Current Accounts with nearly 16,000 moving to Virgin Money. This represents almost one in four scheme current account switches and we also received nearly 50% of business lending that switched through the scheme, (providing over £300M of new lending) making us the highest performing bank in the scheme by some distance.

Customer feedback will always be at the heart of how we shape our business. With the funding we’ve received from the Capability and Innovation Fund, we have been able to go even further in our ambitions.

Running a business is a constant balancing act. And it’s not easy to keep all the plates spinning. So, we asked SMEs – what would make life easier?

A few areas struck home. SMEs are time poor and need help in keeping things as simple as possible. And the sustainability agenda has never been more front of mind for businesses – we know from our own research that 85% of SMEs surveyed believe that sustainability is important, but only 43% currently have targets in place. SMEs need support in this area to understand how to become a greener business. Training, networking and mentoring are also important, but businesses often struggle with.

Taking all of our research and learnings, we have devised a business current account proposition that brings all of it together.

Wellness tracker

Launching later this year, it will feature a financial wellness tracker, bringing all the data and information into one place to give SMEs a clear view and invaluable insight into how their business is performing at any given time, allowing them to manage efficiently and grow their operations.

An important element of this offer is how we are harnessing technology and we’ve partnered with a range of fintechs to introduce clever, intuitive software into the tracker. Collaboration has been key throughout this entire process and each fintech has brought their own expertise to create a product that is completely new for businesses.

We’ve also announced a partnership with Virgin StartUp, a not-for-profit organisation, which focuses on supporting business founders in the UK with expert guidance, funding and mentorship, and Future-Fit Foundation, adopting their methodology to create a sustainability benchmarking tool to help customers with their green agenda.

People make business happen

But, improved access to technology and partnerships doesn’t replace our Relationship Manager network. We know how vital these relationships are when it comes to working with our customers in Yorkshire and beyond, so they remain key in this proposition.

The last 18 months has tested businesses to the limit. We’ve never experienced anything like Covid-19 before and we have learned lessons as we’ve navigated our way through. Technology remains a core part of how we innovate, enabling people and empowering decisions, but we also need to keep our customers at the centre of our work, so we are in the best position as we move forward together.

Gavin Opperman, Group Business Director, Virgin Money

Find out more at www.virginmoney.co.uk.