A great place to do business

Jayne-Anne Gadhia, the straight-talking chief executive of Virgin Money, has just returned to the company’s headquarters in the city after one of her many commutes across the UK. Living in Edinburgh, and with frequent trips to London, she admits her time spent in Newcastle is a welcome feature in her packed schedule.

“It’s always nice to arrive in Newcastle – this is a great place, for so many reasons, and a great place to do business.”

Since Virgin Money – one of the UK’s financial giants, which employs over 3,400 people nationally with a turnover of more than £581m – took over Northern Rock on 1 January 2012, Jayne-Anne has come to know NewcastleGateshead and its business community well, and is fulsome in her praise for both.

“For me, it’s the people who make the real difference in this region, undoubtedly,” she said.

“If I’m honest, when we bought Northern Rock, I thought: ‘Gosh, Northern Rock is such a big brand in the North East, I’m not sure whether people will like this,’ but nothing could be further from the truth. The business community, the people who work at Virgin Money, just everybody, threw themselves into making us what we are.

“While we are a national brand, we are a Newcastle brand in every sense, the heart is here. We are part of the North East community, we have been welcomed into it, and I see us now as being part of a strong partnership here.

“For a business like ours, the great thing is that there is real talent here, real heart and soul, people are dedicated and do a brilliant job. This is a great city and region to live in, so you can bring people into the region to help build the business further, to build on the talent that is already here. People love coming to the North East of England and want to come here, I have definitely found that to be the case.”

The strength of the business community in NewcastleGateshead is something that has impressed Jayne-Anne, and she believes is an important factor in the continued growth of the region.

She said: “I think the current thinking in London and the City is that with Brexit, we need to properly make the country flourish in all the regions. Perhaps there has been too much focus on London and the South East previously, but now I am hearing talk about the importance of the regions. And this region is a great place to be, it is very strong.

“I think the fact it is so well connected is very important for business. The East Coast Mainline makes it so easy and so quick to get to London. I live in Edinburgh and that’s a lovely journey by train to Newcastle too, the views of the coastline are splendid. It is very easy to get to here and that is very important.”

As well as the strength and welcoming nature of NewcastleGateshead’s business community, Jayne-Anne believes the region’s many additional benefits serve only to make it more appealing to those from outside of North East England.

She said: “This is a beautiful region. There is lots of history here, the arts are strong and that really comes through, there are great places to visit and to dine. The coastline is magnificent. There are lovely properties here and property prices are good – that is something that can help the region grow more.

“I love the Great North Run, I have done it once and I think it brings a real heart and soul to everything that we do as a region. The love of football is really important, too, and the passion that brings.

“And, of course, I continue to say I love the people. Really, taking all that into account, what more could you want?”

As a well-known advocate for the development of talent, Jayne-Anne – awarded a CBE in 2014 for services to banking and the voluntary sector – is passionate about helping to develop skills in her sector in the North East, to help strengthen Virgin Money from its very heart.

“I think we could encourage more people here to get into the more technical banking skills – so Treasury, risk – but the fact these skills are in greater supply in Edinburgh or London is simply down to the history of the region,” she said.

“We have a brilliant team here in Newcastle doing fantastic jobs, and there is great talent here. We have people working around the clock for us, there are huge levels of dedication to make sure we are offering a brilliant customer service. For a business, such things are very important, and we have certainly found that to be the case.”

Business events contribute over £100m to the economy of Newcastle and Gateshead and you can play a part. If you know of a conference related to your industry or area of expertise and would like to bring that event to North East England, contact NewcastleGateshead Convention Bureau. The convention bureau, which provides free services, can help you create a successful bid and then to stage an inspiring and rewarding conference in the region.

0191 440 5757 | conventionbureau@ngi.org.uk | www.NewcastleGateshead.com/meet