Video: Norwich key in expansion of Virgin Money - Branson

Sir Richard Branson pledged that Norwich would play a key role in the expansion of Virgin Money as he paid tribute to the staff who built up the business.

The billionaire tycoon made a rare trip to Norwich yesterday to visit the city's new Virgin Money lounge – one of the forerunners of a new banking style – and see the transformation of its Northern Rock branch, both on Castle Street.

As well as speaking of his optimism that the operation in the company's birthplace would expand and create new jobs he said he wanted to create an 'ethical' bank. He also said big companies like Virgin had a responsibility to lend to small businesses and help them create jobs.

The tycoon's firm took over nationalised Northern Rock in a �747m deal.

The Norwich stop was part of a two-day tour which also saw him visit former Northern Rock branches and employees in Newcastle on Monday, which has become the company's operational headquarters.

The re-branding of Northern Rock's 75 branches across the country is expected to take nine months.

Sir Richard said he expected to expand his workforce as Virgin Money aimed to double its customer base from four million to eight million, but would not be drawn on the numbers of new Norwich staff involved.

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He said: 'I think it has a great future. It is where we started our financial service company. We have have 250 fantastically loyal staff here. A lot of them have been here 17 years since we started. We plan to grow the business from four million customers to eight million customers over the next five years and we need this wonderful team to help us do that and hopefully we are going to need to take on more people in years to come.'

The new Virgin Money advert – which features Mike Oldfield's Tubular Bells, recorded in Virgin's first recording studio – was designed by the Norwich team.

Sir Richard added: 'I don't want to promise numbers but I do think we will be needing more people as we expand.

'So we have also taken on the Northern Rock staff and people in Edinburgh and we are going to look after those people as well and hopefully expand there as well.

'But this is where we started and this is the backbone of the financial service company.'