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JAYNE-ANNE GADHIA

Virgin may have its faults as far as the IFA community is concerned but it cannot be faulted on enthusiasm.

Virgin One&#39s managing director Jayne-Anne Gadhia says her boss Richard Branson often rings before sixin the morning or after 11 at night to discuss his latestbusiness idea.

And now, unlikely as it may seem, Virgin is set to apply this zeal to the IFAmarket. It has been conducting trials of its Virgin One account with IFA Maddison Monetary Management over the last six to eight weeks.

Gadhia will be taking the findings of the pilot scheme, which she says went very well, to the board where they will discuss how to take forward the company&#39s relationship with IFAs.

Although sister operation Virgin Direct has been talking to selected fee-based advisers about selling the Virgin GPP, Virgin One does not rule out a link-up with commission-based IFAs. The company admits it is already talking to local and national IFAs about selling the Virgin One account and hints other productsmay be involved.

Gadhia, who has been with Virgin Direct since its inception after being introduced to its founder Rowan O&#39Gormley, insists the interest in IFAs is not an about-turn on the part of Virgin.

“We never said we would not distribute through IFAs. Virgin Direct is not anti-IFA.If that was the perception, then we have been misrepresented by the media.

“We always put the customer first and want the customer to be in control by giving them their preferred means of shopping. Things have changed a lot of the last five years. With the advent of the internet, we will use IFAs to talk people through their options.”

Gadhia believes fee-based advisers are most likely to look at products first but is also prepared to consider link ups with commission-based advisers. “The trials with Maddison made us realise how professional IFAs can be across the board.”

She says Virgin&#39s view of IFAs in the past was clouded by the “commission aspect” but the company thinks the industry has “cleaned up its act” from that point of view.

Another big challenge for Virgin One is “persuading everyone that we are a main market product and not a niche product”, according to Gadhia.

She does not see Halifax&#39s IF and Woolwich&#39s Open plan as rivals, saying they have different approaches. IF, for example, will sell its products individually while Virgin One promotes its account as a package because it is less complicated.

Gadhia moved from Norwich Union in 1994 to become operations director at Virgin Direct. She was made managing director of Virgin One in October 1997.

The move to Virgin Direct was not her first big leap. She switched from accountancyto sales early on in her career at Norwich Union.

She says she was never a very good accountant because the profession is bound by rules and regulations when she felt more drawn towards initiative and creativity. It was a misgiving that saw her fail to complete the stringent account- ancy exams at first sitting.

Gadhia says she fell into sales almost by chance. While working as an accountant for Norwich Union Trust and Peps, she was disappointed by the low volume of business being done in the department, something which prompted her boss to turn round and say: “Rather than moan, why don&#39t you do it?”

She did a spectacular job. In her year in the role, sales increased by 300 per cent. But she does not consider this her greatest achievement at the life office. That honour rests with her resurrection of the Norwich Union salesforce in record time.

In 1994, regulator Lautro pulled the NU direct salesforce off the road and Gadhia was entrusted with the job of getting them back on the road – within a month.

She managed to get the job done on time, pushing the salespeople through various tasks such as FPC and skills assessment. How did she do it? “It was three things – don&#39t take no for an answer, make sure you have a great team of people who are equally committed and take things one step at the time.”

The latter philosophy also stands her in good stead when she is engaging in her main sporting pursuit. She explains: “I realised when I started running that it was better to look at my feet rather than ahead, otherwise it just seemed too far. If you look at all of your problems instead of one at a time it can seem unmanageable.”

Gadhia, 38, took up running 12 months ago because she did not want to be “fat and 40”. She now runs five days a week. As well as keeping her in trim, she has found it an ideal way of clearing her head before going home.

Running is not Gadhia&#39s only sporting interest. She is a keen Manchester United supporter. Although she was originally attracted to Alex Ferguson&#39s management style, specifically how he deals with “a bunch of overpaid, precocious teenagers”, she confesses her interest now lies more with David Beckham.

Her other main out-of-work preoccupation is doing up her Norfolk farmhouse with husband Ashok , a tax accountant, who she has been with for 20 years. “We met at our first day at university in London. I was a child bride.”

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