Meet Alina from the Red Team
Meet Alina. Her face may be familiar to you because of her role as part of Virgin Money’s Red Team – she’s been fronting our customer advice videos on YouTube (generating over 4 million hits so far) and can also be seen alongside her Red Team colleagues on billboards and bus stops across the country as part of our ‘Money On Your Mind’ campaign.
The Red Team is our brilliant team of customer advisors and financial wizards who dedicate their working lives to helping customers – and indeed our non-customers, because you don’t need to bank with us to talk to us. And we’ve connected 300 of our best to our Money On Your Mind digital service that customers maybe wouldn’t usually ask their bank. Those questions have skyrocketed in number, with over 4,000 questions submitted since the pandemic hit. Ask your own question here.
So, what’s it like to go from being the manager of a Virgin Money lounge in Cardiff to filming YouTube videos viewed by millions of people? And does answering questions about money all day actually make you yourself better with money? Read on to find out…
So, Alina, tell us: what’s the Red Team all about?
We are there to help solve customers’ problems and answer their questions, whether they bank with us or not. We have a team of colleagues – 300 of them – who answer the queries coming through the Money On Your Mind section of our website. I’m also part a smaller group that record video answers to the most common and topical questions for our YouTube channel. We’ve recorded answers to questions as diverse as ‘Can I take a mortgage payment holiday?’, ‘Help! My holiday’s been cancelled’ and even ‘I’ve been made redundant, should I tell my bank?’
And what’s been your strangest experience, being part of a big brand campaign?
Just the other day I received a screenshot on WhatsApp from a guy I hadn’t seen in years. He said his girlfriend was watching a make-up tutorial on YouTube and halfway through I popped up on an advert! I’ve had a few random moments like that.
Have you been surprised by the questions you’re getting from customers?
I’m surprised at the volume. This is a really worrying time financially for a lot of people and we’re really seeing that come through. People want a bit of guidance and a bit of support. Money’s so important in our lives, but we rarely see people creating a strong bond with their bank in the way they do with their local coffee house. That’s what we are trying to do here - build that relationship and that trust, helping customers see us as somewhere to go with general questions and for support, rather than just on that one product they may have with us.
Has being part of the Red Team made you smarter with money?
Definitely. I think it’s a mixture of factors: the people I surround myself with, the conversations I have. I look at my balance a lot more now; I was never great with money growing up, I had credit cards everywhere. I never got into serious trouble, but I was never careful or organised. I am now, a lot more so. I’m learning every day.
What’s the single best piece of advice you would give to your younger self?
Just to learn a bit more about money. There is so much information out there, but a lot of us don’t really listen to it. With every financial app or website, always look for the section that teaches you how to use the functions in the right way. Just now we are thinking of buying a new house and refurbing it, and trying to work out how we could pull enough money out of this house to do it. We used Experian to do a credit check, just to see where we are, and there is so much information within Experian that’s so useful, information about how to change your credit score. There’s so much help out there, use it!
Has the pandemic changed your attitude to money?
It’s definitely made me realise I spend more than I need to. I will spend my money differently in the future. I’ll do more from home and use digital memberships a lot more. For example, I’ve been working out at home using an app, and that’s worked out really well for me.
What’s your most prized possession?
Definitely my French bulldog. His name’s Ernie and he is my absolute world. I don’t have children yet, he’s my baby at the moment. He spends most of his day sitting behind my office door waiting for me to finish, and as soon as I do, his lead goes on and we go straight out for a walk. He’s been even more precious to me since we nearly lost him – he had to have an operation to have his ear canal removed. Now he’s permanently wonky, with one ear that flops down. We didn’t have pet insurance, which meant the operation actually took our honeymoon fund. We were supposed to be going to Dubai and Bali, but we moved it back to March this year, and then coronavirus hit, so it’s now been moved back to October. Not ideal, but he’s worth it.
Before making financial decisions always do research, or talk to a financial adviser. Views are those of our mentors and customers and do not constitute financial advice.