A bank ahead of the rest: Why Virgin should take on the big banks

Banking is the biggest business opportunity. This statement seems a little far-reaching considering the big fours’ stranglehold on the Australian market but like all service industries, if your competitor listens to your customers and acts on it more than you do, you could be facing a mass exodus.

Who could take on the current big banks? From my perspective, there is one strong candidate and that’s Virgin.

They already have a financial presence in Virgin Money which offers home loans, insurance and savings accounts, but they have the ability to challenge the big four’s traditional banking model. They could carve up the everyday banking market by taking their successful online offering and going offline by opening up a local branch network and offering cash accounts.

Virgin’s opportunity is not just local, it is also global. Like Australia, most global markets have tired models and dominant players. Virgin could challenge and supersede HSBC to become the world’s best global bank.

So how could Virgin win the bank battle? Apart from having the financial ability to go up against the big players, they basically offer the best customer service and are innovative – two things that define the success of any business.

The best example of how Virgin does it better is through the Virgin airline network. Whether you are travelling with them domestically or internationally, you will notice that their customer service is second-to-none, the interiors of their planes are innovative and their marketing is relevant to customers’ needs and lifestyles.

They know their customers, they offer a better service and they are competitive. They live and breathe their motto: “We’re united by our passion for giving our customers a better deal, serviced by real people.”

Every business within the Virgin family seems to offer simple, thoughtful and reliable services – something which you can’t say about any of the current big banks.

In the retail industry, if you don’t take your customer into account at every step of the process your business model won’t succeed. For all of the Winning Group businesses, exceptional customer service is the foundation. If we get it wrong, we change it. If we make a mistake and upset a customer, we fix the problem in a timely manner. We are continually innovating to ensure that we deliver the best shopping experience possible.

Obviously banks have to adhere to certain laws and are constrained in some areas; however, the lack of agility to change based on customer feedback or even to refresh the service offering is where the current banks let customers down.

With a high dollar and a strong economy Australia is in a healthy economic position in comparison to the rest of the world. This is the time for Australian businesses to shine and you would think that the banks would be pulling out all stops to support the growth of Australian businesses within our own country and to expand internationally. Banks need to provide customer service that matches the advancements of Australian businesses and the community’s lives – standard traditional service doesn’t crack it anymore.

I recently wrote about the difference between Qantas and Virgin and that whilst Qantas had my heart, Virgin was the smarter option. Virgin’s opportunity to dominate the market stemmed from Qantas’ inability to change a once successful business model when they were on top.

The biggest opportunity for a new player is to learn from an older business, but bring a fresh angle to it. Qantas didn’t continue to raise the bar on their customer service – they continued offering the same level of service, which isn’t relevant to today’s flyers.

Even though our economy is strong the cost of living is skyrocketing, so consumers will break from tradition to something that delivers a better experience and price. Australians would do the same with the banks if they had a Virgin everyday bank as a choice.

John Winning is CEO of Winning Group: Appliances Online, BigBrownBox.com.au, Winning Appliances, and Handy Crew.

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