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Virgin Money optimistic for digital bank development after strong first-half performance

  • Virgin Money's CEO Jayne-Anne Gadhia has said the challenger bank is optimistic for the future of its digital banking platform
  • The bank reported strong profits and a positive outlook in its first half results on Tuesday on the back of a strong U.K. economy
  • Gadhia insisted that the bank remained consistent on its commitment to physical branches and face to face customer interaction

Virgin Money's CEO has said the challenger bank is optimistic for the future of its digital banking platform, and that a balance with physical branches and face to face customer interaction remained paramount to its model.

The bank reported strong profits and a positive outlook in its first half results on Tuesday on the back of a strong U.K. economy.

"I think the economy has performed better than many people's expectations, and my own, since the (Brexit) referendum vote," Jayne-Anne Gadhia, chief executive officer at Virgin Money, told CNBC on Tuesday.

Gadhia added that the business was heavily bolstered by its digital and mobile operations.

Bank, Virgin Money
Chris Ratcliffe | Bloomberg | Getty Images

"We acquire almost all of our credit customers digitally or online at the moment, and we'd expect that to develop," Virgin Money's CEO said.

How important is mobile technology?

She added: "Over 50 percent of our business is now done on mobile technology and, again, as we build our digital bank – we announced a partnership with Antony Jenkins's new company, 10X, recently to develop that digital bank – that will develop more."

The bank signed a deal with financial technology (fintech) start-up 10X Future Technologies, the brainchild of ex-Barclays chief-turned-fintech entrepreneur Anthony Jenkins, last November.

Virgin Money also reported that it had received 13 million visits to its website in its first half results announcement.

Will Virgin give up its branches?

Gadhia insisted that the bank remained consistent on its commitment to physical branches and face to face customer interaction.

"We're absolutely finding that our branches continue to thrive. Customers like to see us face to face, so I think the balance between face to face interaction and the ability to transact digitally on your mobile is something that's really important for the future," she said.

Antony Jenkins, CEO of Barclays
Adam Jeffery | CNBC
Antony Jenkins, CEO of Barclays

Virgin Money enjoyed a 34 percent rise in first half profit, to £90.5 million ($117.9 million) from £67.5 million last year.

Alpha male culture in banking 'very damaging'

Gadhia previously worked for the Royal Bank of Scotland under its controversial former chief Fred Goodwin.

In an interview with BBC Radio 4 last Friday, she said that she had learned from events that led up to the 2008 financial crisis and the near-collapse of RBS.

"In the end that focus on the output at all times meant that the senior management there lost control both of the business itself and the culture that underpinned it, and that was devastating for everybody involved from the top all the way through," she said.

"And I think that in a very alpha male culture, and certainly we saw a bit of it maybe at RBS, it was an attitude of win-lose – 'I am going to win, I am going to succeed at all costs' – and I think that has been very damaging."

Meeting people shaped the CEO's approach to business

In that same interview she discussed how meeting people along the way on her journey towards the top job at Virgin Money had shaped her approach to business.

"I've always loved people, loved chatting to people, and so wherever I've been, I've been keen to meet new people talk about what they do and understand more broadly how their lives are and how organizations work. Balance sheets and numbers are just the output but it's the people that make the business serve the customer and do great things."