Virgin Money is a brand that has taken humanising to another level. At its Sheffield ‘lounge’ you might find a children’s birthday party being enjoyed in the in-store bowling alley. Or a customer might be perusing the books in the library area.
Spread over three floors the Virgin Money Lounge also includes a kids’ zone and a space for relaxing with free access to TVs, iPads, a jukebox and a Wii games console. Oh, and there are banking facilities too.
Virgin Money is building a UK-wide network of lounges as part of their ambition to offer a different kind of banking experience. Membership of the lounge is free to customers. They can use the space as they wish, from simply sheltering from the rain to socialising with friends.
“Our lounges aren’t a gimmick,” insists Virgin Money’s Tim Arthur. “They are an extension of our humanity: a non-sales environment for our customers where we
can build relationships and give something back to the community.”
The lounges are in part a response to the realisation of the importance of
face-to-face interaction, particularly in a climate where more services are going digital. Unlike bank branches which can look the same wherever the location, Virgin Money injects individuality into each lounge, taking inspiration from the town or city where they are situated. The Sheffield branch features local steel and slate in its design, and showcases artwork by city-based artists.
Tim was appointed Virgin Money’s Creative Director in September 2016 with a brief to look after the customer ‘end-to-end’, from product design to external communications. He says the bank benefits from being part of the umbrella Virgin brand which has a licence to be curious and encourages ideas to be pushed further. This means the bank can be brave in its decision-making.
Driving Virgin Money’s approach is an ambition at the heart of the brand to make ‘everyone better off’. Tim explains it’s not simply a box-tick exercise for corporate and social responsibility, the ambition is a genuine and fundamental driver for the organisation. “In board room discussions, we’re always talking about EBO (‘Everyone better off’). At every stage we ask ourselves, is this decision fair, does it feel right?”
Tim says that ‘EBO’ is a touchstone for staying human. It underpins his own work in attempting to break down the organisational silos and be more human-centric. His team works hand-in-glove with operational and commercial departments; they’re involved from day one in the development of new products and services, representing the customer throughout the product lifecycle.
The brand aims to have communications with customers that feel human, using plain English, with simple and engaging language. “The language we use is important. But we don’t try and be funny. Our customers want to trust us, they don’t want a joker running their finances,” he says.