Entrepreneur Richard Branson on Friday took a step into U.K. retail banking as his Virgin Money business said it had offered to buy regional lender Church House Trust in a deal worth $19.6 million.

Virgin is one of a number of companies that see opportunities for fresh entrants in the U.K. banking sector after the financial crisis left many of the traditional players with tarnished reputations.

Virgin Money has been keen to set up a small bank that it can expand organically and through acquisitions since Branson tried but failed to take over Northern Rock, the U.K. bank that collapsed in 2007.

Last October, Virgin Money applied to the U.K. Financial Services Authority to become a bank and at the same time made an application to buy Church House Trust.

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