'We want to get rid of the bollocks in banking'

Never Mind the branding, here’s the Virgin credit card

Bollocks VirginUpdated: They once promised anarchy in the UK but the pin-up boys of the anti-establishment punk era are now the respectable face of banking.

Almost 40 years after the Sex Pistols first signed for Virgin Records, Virgin Money has announced an exclusive range of credit cards dedicated to the band.

And Virgin is ready to court controversy by having one card feature the album cover of Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols. The other reproduces the design for Anarchy in the UK.

All customer details – name, card number, expiry date –  have been put on the back of the cards so as not to interfere with the artwork and allow it to be reproduced in full.

The cards have caused something of a backlash, not least among fans of the group who object to the association with giant financial corporations. Others will recall that Virgin itself was considered inappropriate as a company name when it launched in the early 1970s.

Jayne-Anne Gadhia, chief executive of Virgin Money today defended the launch in a blog on the company’s website in which she says: “We want to get of the bollocks in banking” (see full text below).

Sir Richard Branson, Virgin Group founder, said: “The Sex Pistols are an iconic band and an important part of Virgin’s history. Virgin Money is a bank that can be proud of its past, and I love the fact that the team have chosen to celebrate it in this way.

anarchy Virgin“Even after nearly 40 years, the Sex Pistols power to provoke is undimmed, and we are still being asked to censor the word bollocks in our advertising. Over the years many things have changed, but in this case some attitudes clearly do not.”

Michele Greene, Director of Cards at Virgin Money said: “For a long time now, UK banks have all been the same.

“They have the same products, the same services and the same attitude towards customers. At Virgin Money, we are aiming to change that.

“In launching these cards, we wanted to celebrate Virgin’s heritage and difference. The Sex Pistols challenged convention and the established ways of thinking – just as we are doing today in our quest to shake up UK banking.

“New technology allows the artwork to be reproduced in full and these designs are available across our entire card range.”

Giving her views on the Virgin Money website, Jayne-Anne Gadhia (below), said: “Never mind the bankers – I wanted to give you my honest thoughts on our latest ad campaign featuring the Sex Pistols in all their revolutionary glory!

“I was a teenager in the 70s when hair was long, music was loud and change was in the air. I used to read Jackie magazine and fell in love with the safe and sound Donny Osmond – not the edgy, risky, scary music of bands like T Rex, the Stones or the Sex Pistols.

Jayne-Anne Gadhia“But of course, I was always more than a little bit fascinated by the music, the headlines, the parties and the shock and outrage that went with such bands.

“And I certainly noticed – even then – that Richard Branson and Virgin were in the thick of the music revolution. I remember my Mum being quite shocked that a company called ‘Virgin’ could be allowed to exist – let alone run riot with headline grabbing stories!

“I can clearly remember what I was wearing (jeans and orange shoes – well it was the ’70s) when I heard on my brown, plastic transistor radio (well it was the ’70s) that Richard Branson had bought an island in the Caribbean. I thought it was SO cool.

“I continued for the next couple of decades being anything but cool. So you can imagine how I felt the first time I went down to Holland Park to meet Richard and to work on the project to set up Virgin in Financial Services. I had to pinch myself. And I was very nervous.

“Richard’s house in Holland Park wasn’t as Rock ‘n’ Roll as I’d expected. It was a (huge) warm and comfy family home.

“But it did have some of the trappings you might expect. A beautiful yellow grand piano. Some gold records and – propped up against the wall of the dining room to the right of the hall – the platinum disc of Tubular Bells.

“One day, as we were working on the Financial Services project – with a few ‘proper’ Financial Services people – and we were sitting around the dining room table when Richard came in. ‘It’s so odd to have all you bankers here’ he said. ‘It wasn’t that long ago that the Sex Pistols were in here being sick in the corner’

“Even then (1994) it struck me just how far Virgin had come – yet it had always remained challenging, edgy – and pretty Rock ‘n’ Roll.

“And through the years I have always been very aware – and very proud – of the history and heritage of Virgin. It gives us permission to challenge things, provoke discussion – to make a difference. That’s what Virgin Money is all about.

“I can’t think of any other part of our society that needs to be challenged and changed more than the banking sector.

“The established ways of doing things have often proved disastrous. The lack of competition has cost customers dear. And a dearth of innovation means that the big banks have much to do to catch up with the needs and requirements of todays world.

“Virgin Money is here to be as challenging of the status quo as the bands of the ’70s. To be as loud in pointing out where changes are needed. To be as provocative as possible in creating innovation – in our own business and in others.

“So, what better way to make our point than by going back to the iconic rebels of the ’70s?

“Today we launch a brand new credit card which features – for customers who want it – two of the Sex Pistols’ most famous record covers – Anarchy in the UK and Never Mind the Bollocks.

“We don’t want Anarchy in banking – but we do want change. And we want to get rid of the bollocks in banking and to be simple, open, transparent and fair.

“There will, I’m sure, be all sorts of debate about our approach. And I’ve thought hard about whether this is the right thing for us to do.

“But in the end, I’m proud of Virgin’s history. Proud of the difference it has made in the world. And proud that we have a chance to be cool.

“So. That’s what it’s all about. Pure and simple. Never mind the Bollocks.”


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