City mourns Sir Brian Pitman

David Hellier
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SIR Brian Pitman, one of the most respected bankers of his generation, has died aged 78.
Pitman, who was latterly chairman of Virgin Money, led Lloyds Bank for 18 years before retiring almost a decade ago.

In his time as chief executive and then chairman of Lloyds, Pitman built the bank from a £1bn business to a £32bn group by concentrating on retail banking and largely eschewing investment banking or risky overseas acquisitions. His first job was as a jazz trombonist.

The Lloyds bank he inherited was a group scarred by its exposure to underperforming Latin American loans and Pitman was determined to tread a conservative path, growing the bank organically and domestically and then by acquiring TSB in 1995, a year after being knighted.

Lloyds Banking Group chief executive Eric Daniels said last night: “Sir Brian was a truly inspirational leader, who contributed an enormous amount to Lloyds over many years. He was a towering figure in our industry and was involved in many of the major changes that have shaped the banking sector.”

As well as being chairman of Virgin Money, Pitman held non-executive roles with Singapore Airlines, Tomkins and Carphone Warehouse. He was actively being pursued by another banking group that wanted to raise money in London and his decision to join Virgin appears to have scuppered their plans.

He also acted as adviser to Morgan Stanley International and its chairman and chief executive Walid Chammah said: “He was one of the most respected, intelligent and insightful bankers of his generation. Those of us who had the privilege of working with him will remember him as modest, thoughtful, and worthy of our respect and admiration.”

During the recent banking crisis, he was sounded out by countless media organisations for his views on the affair and two weeks ago he appeared before MPs on the Future of Banking Commission.

Many might reflect that his talent for conservative lending and his dedication to sound banking principles are skills that have been sadly lacking during the current crisis. He will be sorely missed.