Virgin Money levels up its approach to purpose

Holly Branson standing outside the Virgin Money office
Kami White
Holly Branson
Holly Branson's writing
Published on 21 June 2022

Over the years I have been incredibly proud of the team at Virgin Money and how they have embraced and embedded their purpose (making people happier about money) in every single decision they make. They work tirelessly to leave a positive impact on all their stakeholders: their people, their customers, their communities, and the planet. They never rest when it comes to ensuring their purpose is fit for the times we live in, and they have been a leading light in encouraging the banking sector to embrace purposeful businesses. In its latest step, Virgin Money is working with The Purpose Coalition to launch its Levelling Up Impact Report – and ensure the business is doing everything it can to live up to its purpose.

The Purpose Coalition, a group of policymakers, businesses, universities and other organisations who are working to improve social mobility in the UK, developed its 14 ‘Levelling Up Goals’ in alignment with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Virgin Money’s progress has been mapped against these goals to form the report.

The Purpose Coalition's levelling up goals
The Purpose Coalition

It’s one thing for a business to have a purpose and to talk about it, but it takes work to really live up to it. I really admire how Virgin Money acknowledges this and holds itself accountable through actions like launching this report. Virgin Money really does rely on its purpose to guide its strategy and clarify what problems in society the business can try to solve.

Whenever I catch up with the team, they come to me with impressive progress updates as well as new ideas, products, benefits, campaigns, policies and partnerships which are always guided by their purpose. As a result, all of the actions are helping people find financial security, and unlocking the opportunities that come with it. A few examples include its Poverty Premium campaign, its better-than-basic M Account, a fully-flexible people package called A Life More Virgin which includes policies such as gender-neutral family leave.

Virgin Money and The Purpose Coalition

It was particularly encouraging to read Rt Hon Justine Greening, Chair of The Purpose Coalition, reflect on the progress Virgin Money is making too. As she wrote in the report:

“Virgin Money’s collaborative and comprehensive approach to new ways of working, particularly flexible working, focuses on developing the talent – wherever it is found - that will drive the future of the business. It aims to enable colleagues to live their best lives while serving customers and communities more effectively. It can be a tool to promote physical and mental wellbeing, support families and carers, reconnect people with their local community, offer greater choice on geographical location and have a positive impact on inclusion.

“Crucially, that also extends to financial inclusion - those who are financially excluded are also excluded from opportunity. Recent years have seen a much-needed shift away from a financial services landscape stacked with challenges to gaining either savings or credit. Simple and more transparent products that support more vulnerable customers and eliminate the poverty premium, a contribution to financial education and literacy and impact investment can all be key elements of financial services’ ever-closer alignment to purpose.”

The report identified key areas where Virgin Money is making great strides, and also established future ambitions to ensure the bank will continue to deliver its purpose in the long-term. This is critical as one of the challenges of purpose work is being able to define, measure and implement it.

David Duffy and Jonathan Reynolds
Virgin Money

The report found Virgin Money is making particularly strong progress across three of the Levelling Up goals:

  • Widening access to savings and credits: This has been achieved by Virgin Money’s work to tackle the poverty premium, and its approach to basic banking through the M Account, which supports vulnerable customers, and increases their financial confidence and literacy in the process.

  • Good health and well-being: Virgin Money drives good health and wellbeing from within, which ladders up to Dad’s philosophy of ‘take care of your people, and they’ll take care of your business’. The comprehensive wellbeing strategy, called A Life More Virgin, gives its people fully flexible working conditions and a wealth of support for mind, body, social connections and financial wellbeing.

  • Achieve equality through diversity and inclusion: This has been achieved through Virgin Money’s company-wide dedication to removing blockages to access and inclusion (financial or otherwise). This includes the sector-leading customer offerings I mentioned above; the company’s broader approach to equality, diversity and inclusion; and its transparent reporting of targets and performance when it comes to gender, ethnicity, LGBTQ+ and disability.

The future ambitions identified by The Purpose Coalition have also given Virgin Money a brilliant starting point for the next phase of its purpose journey. The recommendations include:

  • Engaging with policy makers and the wider sector on short-term solutions that have arisen from crises such as inflation, rising energy costs, and the economic impacts of the war in Ukraine.

  • Continue to build an ongoing programme of political and public engagement to show how and why businesses should be led by purpose.

  • Utilise the ‘Virgin Money Purpose Squad’ to guide colleagues on how they can engage with their communities in ways that build on the bank’s purpose of ‘Making You Happier About Money’.

  • Build on its existing diversity measurement and reporting  by including a measurement of social mobility.

  • Maximise the positive social impact of Virgin Money’s commitment to location-free recruitment by forming ‘opportunity bridges’ to encourage more applications from social mobility cold spots and further drive ethnic diversity.

Virgin Money
Virgin Money

Recommendations and reporting like this is a fantastic way of ensuring ambitions leads to action, and purpose leads to impact. I’m excited to see what comes from the recommendations as Virgin Money continues to change business for good.

Read Virgin Money’s Levelling Up Impact Report here.