Virgin Money recruits an old hand as chair

JONATHAN Agnew, the former chairman of Nationwide Building Society, is set to become the new chairman of Virgin Money, as soon as his appointment is approved by the FSA.

Agnew (pictured) will take over the leadership of a company that has been without a figurehead for the last year since the death of its chief executive Brian Pitman.

Top of Agnew’s inbox will be a 150-page information memorandum hot off the presses from Lloyds, detailing the 632 branches the bank is being forced to sell.

Richard Branson has declared Virgin Money to be a “serious bidder” for the assets, which would catapult Virgin from being a minnow in the industry to being the UK’s sixth largest bank with 4.6 per cent of the mortgage market on its books.

Agnew’s first task will be to oversee the decision on whether the asking price looks reasonable, where Virgin can find some £30bn to find to cover the branches’ funding gap or whether it might in fact make more sense to bid for Northern Rock, which the government is likely to offload this year.

Agnew, who is 70, is already chairman of Beazley, the Lloyd’s of London insurer, fund manager Ashmore Global Opportunities, the Cayenne Trust and Rightmove.

He is an experienced hand in the financial services industry, having also held roles as a director of Commerzbank, LMS Capital, Bankside Insurance and Dresdner Kleinwort.