When we were scrambling for Virgin to survive, and banks were threatening to shut us down on multiple occasions, I would have probably described the people who run financial institutions as a bunch of absolute bankers.
But somehow, in October 1997 I found myself in London, dressed up in a bowler hat and pinstripe suit, cutting a red ribbon. We were introducing the world to the Virgin One account. I was officially a banker. How the hell had that happened? One of the chief reasons was the woman standing beside me, all six feet two of her. If I had to name one person who has changed my mind about what bankers are like, and what banking can positively do, it would be Jayne-Anne Gadhia.
Now Jayne-Anne has written a book, The Virgin Banker, detailing her fascinating life becoming one of the most inspirational leaders in finance and beyond. As you will learn from reading the book, we are quite different characters, but we have some things in common – a love of people, a sense of humour, a stubborn streak – that have made Virgin’s journey into banking one of the most exciting and enlightening rollercoaster rides of my career. Now, they aren’t words that you would usually associate with banking, but Virgin Money isn’t a normal bank and hers isn’t a normal book.
As I explain at length in my foreword in The Virgin Banker, Jayne-Anne's story is one of taking risks, making mistakes, celebrating triumphs and learning from successes as well as failures. It’s a unique take on a unique world I never thought I would be a part of. It turns out banking without the bollocks wasn’t such a bad idea after all. And, as I often tell Jayne-Anne, I’m more than happy for you to call me an absolute banker.