01 September 1997

You’ve got to hand it to Richard Branson. Yet again he dresses-up in fancy dress [not drag, for once], tinkles his bell Pavlov-style and the press salivates to order, obediently presenting the Grin’s latest wheeze with several million pounds of free publicity. The powers behind Virgin One, Virgin Direct’s new banking venture, are Australian Mutual Provident and the Royal Bank of Scotland. Said RBS chief executive, George Mathewson: 'We are talking about the most radical new banking product in many years' - a single account which includes a current account, savings facility, credit card and personal loans. Loans and savings carry the same variable interest rate of 8.2%, comparing favourably with the standard variable mortgage rate of Halifax (8.45%) and Sainsbury’s savings account rate of 6.5%. Virgin and RBS have each invested an initial £5m in the venture, Virgin’s stake funded by a recent £55m cash injection from AMP. RBS provides the banking expertise, Virgin the telephone infrastructure and branding. The new account is available immediately to existing customers of Virgin Direct and will extend to non-customers early next year. Predictably, the high street banks are dismissive about Virgin One: 'It is complicated and not a straightforward offering', hissed Gordon Rankin, Barclays’ director of personal banking.