Jayne-Anne Gadhia, managing director of The One Account, compares losing the Virgin brand name with giving up her surname when she got married.
The current account mortgage lender is the first company set up by Virgin forced to drop the household name – loved and loathed in equal measure – after being acquired by Royal Bank of Scotland.
The One Account is offering a flexible product tailored for intermediaries – the first time that it has created a product solely for IFAs.
Gadhia plays down the impact of losing the Virgin name,saying intermediaries, its 100,000 customers and staff should treat it as business as usual.
She says: “I compare it with getting married when I thought about whether I wanted to take my husband's name. I decided I did as I felt proud to be associated with him and knew I was not going to change because my name did. It is exactly the same with changing to The One Account.”
Gadhia must thrive on a challenge as she is enthusiastic about going through a time of change at work after having her first child only four months ago.
She has had a steady career progress through Norwich Union and Virgin to the helm of The One Account. She qualified as a chartered accountant and although she is quick to say she is not your typical number-cruncher, she believes this background has stood her in good stead.
“I have never been your traditional accountant but working as a CA is the best training you can get. Auditing lets you understand the breadth and depth of a business.”
Gadhia's big break came when a former boss at Norwich Union gave her the chance to escape a life of numbers.She joined the life office as an accountant in its unit trust and Pep business in 1987 but says her boss got so tired of her moaning about its underperformance that he moved her into marketing to sort it out.
It is this opportunity to make a difference that continues to motivate Gadhia. She says. “It goes back to when I was doing an MBA at London University. A great speaker was saying that we should think about how we can make a difference and I thought, how can I, as a small cog in a huge wheel? But I realised that we can all make a difference at work and that is what gets me out of bed in the morning.”
Gadhia is determined that The One Account will make a difference in the market by building on its position as a top 10 lender. She points to Australia, where current account mortgages make up 80 per cent of the mortgage market and where the idea for the format of Virgin One emerged. She is confident that if the same boom takes place in the Cam market in the UK, there is no reason why The One Account should not take the top spot as one of the sector's pioneers.
She sees intermediaries as an important part of the distribution strategy and believes that IFAs are already behind the product. “We have always had respect for professional advisers and more than 10 per cent of advisers have themselves bought the product. Personal recommendation is important.”
Gadhia believes the changes to The One Account to meet the needs of intermediaries will help it win market share from competitors such as Intelligent Finance, partly because it appears at the top of all the mortgage-sourcing engines.
She is also looking at new product areas such as buy to let, business accounts, self-certification and equity release. “The buy-to-let market is slower than two years ago but the market still exists. We will be looking at new customers to the market and people looking to remortgage.”
Despite being part of Royal Bank of Scotland, Gadhia says she is allowed the autonomy and freedom to get on with managing The One Account in her own way. “We sit down with RBS at the start of the year to set business objectives and then I am expected to go ahead and achieve them which is a clever motivation.”
Gadhia took up running as a hobby in her mid-30s, which suits her energetic and enthusiastic approach. She also says she likes to be associated with the best, which explains her support of Manchester United.
But she has a big task on her hands to convince customers that the loss of the Virgin brand will make no difference and faces a battle to win market share from high-street competitors such as Barclays and the Woolwich.
Lives: Norwich, with husband and four-month-old daughter
Born: October 1961 in the West Midlands
Education: Studied history at London University from 1980 to 1983 and has since completed an MBA at the university
Career: On graduation, she joined Ernst & Young to train as a chartered accountant. Moved to Norwich Union in 1987 as an accountant in its unit trust and Pep business and then had a variety of positions in marketing, sales, compliance and systems. Moved to Virgin Direct in 1994 as operations director during the launch of its Peps, pensions and life products. In 1997, Virgin launched its bank, the Virgin One Account, and Gadhia became managing director.
Career ambition: To make The One Account one of the biggest banking products in the UK
Likes: Football, especially Manchester United
Dislikes: Carol Vorderman
Peers say: “She has got incredible focus and energy that rubs off on people she works with. She is a natural leader.”
Car: BMW. “All I know is that it's silver”