Mr Pitman retires next year, several years beyond the official departure age. Outsiders have found it hard to identify an obvious internal candidate at the bank he has dominated for 13 years. He stayed partly to get the bank on track again after the failure of its bid for Midland.
There was speculation that one reason for the deal with Cheltenham & Gloucester was to line up Mr Longhurst as a successor, but Mr Pitman insisted that any decisions were well into the future.
'Obviously, Andrew's hat will be in the ring with others,' he said. 'Andrew would be one of a number who would be competitors for the job, but he's not even in the fold yet.' The takeover will not go through for another year.
Mr Longhurst, the 54-year-old who put C&G into a shape worth pounds 1.8bn to Lloyds, was more circumspect, denying that he was being groomed to take over the job.
But with John Bays, the chairman, he is to join the board of Lloyds when the takeover is completed. He said recently: 'If you do one job well people tend to give you another one.'
He is not a typical building society man and hates the cosy way others call it a movement rather than an industry. He is also used to putting noses out of joint among competitors.
Mr Longhurst joined C&G at 28. His father was national sales manager at Colgate-Palmolive, the American toothpaste and soaps group.
From Glyn Grammar School at Epsom, he studied mathematics and statistics at Nottingham University. His three children are all mathematicians.
From a job as a computer programmer for Ferranti, he moved to English Electric and then into computer consultancy in the City, before moving as a data processing manager to C&G where he helped to install its first computer system. He became chief executive in 1982.
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