Virgin Money names former Lloyds chief Pitman chairman

Virgin Money names former Lloyds chief Pitman chairman

Virgin Money has stepped up its assault on the UK retail banking market with the appointment of former Lloyds TSB boss Brian Pitman as chairman.

Pitman, a former Lloyds chief executive and chairman, has close links with Virgin having worked on its failed takeover of Northern Rock two years ago.

Despite that failure, Richard Branson's financial unit continued its attempt to break into the retail market and this month bought small regional bank Church House Trust, acquiring an FSA license in the process.

Pitman is joined on the board by two more veterans, former RBS deputy CEO Norman McLuskie and Colin Keogh, one-time CEO of Close Brothers Group, who will act as non-executive directors.

The three join existing board members Gordon McCallum and Patrick McCall, advising the executive team lead by CEO Jayne-Anne Gadhia.

Virgin Money veteran Roland Russell continues as chief operating officer, but the firm does not, as yet, have a CIO or CTO.

Says Pitman: "Church House Trust provides Virgin Money with the ideal platform to make a significant impact in the UK banking market. Our bank will be well capitalised and managed prudently with a strong focus on serving customers. It will see a much needed return of old fashioned banking principles."

Branson's determination to turn Virgin Money into a high street player is expected to lead to a renewed bid for Northern Rock or the acquisition of Williams & Glyn's, and its 300 branches, from RBS.

Meanwhile, the firm is being joined by several other new entrants into the retail market, including Tesco, US entrepreneur Vernon Hill's Metro Bank and Sandy Chen's Walton & Co.

US investment group Blackstone is also looking to tap into public disquiet with UK banks with the launch of a greenfield start-up, Home and Savings Bank. Blackstone and partners Cambridge Place and the Pears family have pledged £250 million to get the business up and running and are looking for an additional £250 million from third party investors. The new bank has lined up Peter Birch, the former chief executive of Abbey National, as chairman and Stuart Sinclair, the ex-boss of Tesco Personal Finance, as chief executive.

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