Former Lloyds banker Sir Brian Pitman dies

Sir Brian Pitman, arguably the most respected banker of his generation, has died of a heart attack aged 78.

Sir Brian, had most recently been the chairman of Virgin Money, but he was became famous for building Lloyds Bank into a titan that, following its 1995 takeover of TSB, briefly became biggest bank in the world.

Sir Brian was also a chairman of Next and held non-executive seats on a clutch of Britain's most prestigious boards after retirement from Lloyds.

He started his career as a jazz trombonist but joined the bank in 1952 and was in the 1970s part of the "lifeboat committee" tasked by the Bank of England with sorting out London's secondary banking crisis.

His death will come as a blow to Virgin, which has ambitions to become a new force in British banking and has been linked to a bid for Northern Rock. Sir Brian advised the company on its original approach in 2007. Sir Richard Branson last night described Sir Brian, who died on Monday, as "the giant of his profession" and "the most respected banker of his generation".

He added: "I was fortunate enough to know Sir Brian personally and had him hold our hands as we moved into the world of banking. Everyone who knew this gentle giant will miss him enormously."

Eric Daniels, the current chief executive of Lloyds, said: "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."