Virgin: sustained fast growth

26th June 2019

Patrick McCall, a senior partner at Virgin, shared his lessons from being Sir Richard Branson’s “eyes and ears” for the last 22 years, at our Top Track 250 alumni dinner for senior directors in London last night. The dinner was hosted by Chris Sood-Nicholls, head of professional services at Lloyds Banking Group, and Fast Track’s founder Hamish Stevenson.

In a wide-ranging Q&A with guests, Patrick talked about Virgin’s role in building 12+ billion-dollar businesses, such as airline Virgin Blue in Australia and the gym group Virgin Active – a Top Track 250 alumnus.

Patrick joined Virgin in 1997 from SG Warburg and he spoke to our camera before the dinner about what he has learnt from working with the famous entrepreneur.


Patrick emphasised Sir Richard’s critical role as the head of the group in driving their “play hard and work hard” culture, even as he marks his 69th birthday next month.

The founder’s “low boredom threshold” meant the investment group was continually on the look out for new ventures to launch and scale, and for partners to work with to achieve their vision.

Patrick pointed to Virgin Voyages, the cruise line, Virgin Hotels and Virgin Galactic, its commercial spaceflight venture, as the focus of Sir Richard’s attention at present.

He also spoke about the ambitions of OneWeb, the communications company that is launching satellites every month this year to provide global high-speed internet coverage by 2021 so that even those in remote, rural parts of the world can benefit from online services and trade. He saw this as one part of Virgin’s mission to provide sustainable services to a global audience, also citing its work on growing passenger numbers on its rail services, and experimentation with biofuels in Virgin Atlantic.


Guest insights

Patrick shared his insights with 29 senior directors from 27 Top Track 250 alumni companies, including Harrods, InHealth, TES Global and Rocco Forte Hotels.

Andrew Baxter is managing director of Europa Worldwide, which offers road, air and sea, warehouse and freight services, making 500,000 shipments each year to more than 160 countries. It recorded sales of £144.4m in 2017. He spoke about the importance of having a good plan and sticking to it, even when the going gets tough.



Thelma Lee is executive finance director of Baird & Co, the bullion merchant with more than five decades of history, which operates the only precious metal refinery in the UK. It recorded sales of £1bn in 2018. She spoke about the company’s diverse range of products and services and the development of its marketing.




A word from our sponsor

Guests enjoyed networking dinner and drinks with representatives from Lloyds Banking Group. Chris Sood-Nicholls, head of professional services at Lloyds Banking Group, welcomed guests and praised their resilience in the face of the current uncertain trading conditions. “It is a real privilege to see the backbone of British business around the room. We recognise it’s tough out there and despite that Lloyds remains committed to British business.”


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