FEATURE16 July 2018

A head for finance

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Jayne-Anne Gadhia is a rarity: a female CEO of a major bank. A decade after the financial crisis, what insight does the sector now have on its culture problem, and does being one of its outsiders give Gadhia a fresh take on the change financial services need? By Richard Young.

Jayne-Anne Gadhia 3

In business, acquisition – not imitation – is the sincerest form of flattery. Which means Jayne-Anne Gadhia must have been doing something right. At the time of writing, Clydesdale Bank and Yorkshire Bank (CYBG) had agreed to pay £1.7bn to buy Virgin Money, the FTSE 250 bank she runs. 

Flattery, because Virgin Money really only got going in 2011, with its own acquisition of troubled building society Northern Rock. Since then, it has delivered some stellar results – culminating, in February, with an increase in underlying pre-tax profit of 28%, to £273m. So, is Gadhia that rarest of beasts, a popular banker? 

“I never think of myself as a banker, ” she says, notwithstanding her autobiography’s title, The Virgin Banker. “My career hasn’t been that planned; it’s more a series of accidents.”

CYBG and Virgin are often classified as ‘challenger banks’ – an awkward catch-all term for institutions outside the big incumbents, such as Barclays and HSBC. ...