Clifford given a blank slate at Virgin Money

Rob Clifford will have the opportunity to develop a mortgage proposition from scratch when he takes the helm as managing director of Virgin Money on January 6.

Clifford was appointed to the role last week, days after quitting as chief executive of franchise broker mortgageforce. He will be replaced by mortgageforce chief operating officer Kevin Duffy, who has been named managing director.

At Virgin Money, Clifford will be responsible for growth across the company’s credit card, protection and investment businesses as well as developing a new mortgage proposition for the firm. But it is not yet known what shape the business will take.

Clifford, who has more than 20 years’ experience in financial ser-vices, says: “It may seem strange that I’ve taken a job where there is no strategy on the mortgage side but that was part of the appeal. I will have a blank slate when I take up my position in January.”

Sources say it is likely that Virgin Money will go down the lending route despite Clifford’s expertise in the broker market.

Virgin Money geared up to take over Northern Rock last year and is known to have had talks with HML about a possi-ble servicing tie-up.

Clifford will report to Jayne-Anne Gadhia, executive chairman of Virgin Money Worldwide, who will take its financial services strategy forward internationally.

The firm has a presence in the UK, Australia, South Africa and the US.

Gadhia says: “Clifford has focussed on value creation throughout his career and will use his extensive experience of the financial services market to make a major contribution to shaping and growing the Virgin Money business in the UK.”

Clifford’s departure from mortgageforce prompted speculation that parent company West Bromwich was preparing for a possible merger with Nationwide.

West Brom has already suspended lending from second charge subsidiary White Label Home Loans. One rumour indicated that it was looking to offload mortgageforce to make a merger more palatable.

But that rumour has been quashed by West Brom chief executive Robert Sharpe.

Sharpe, who during his tenure as Portman chief executive was a key player in the society’s merger with Nationwide, says: “We are not merging with Nationwide. I would not spend another year of my life streamlining West Brom to merge it with that society.”