Lombard is a British-based finance company that specialise in loans and insurance, founded in 1861. It is one of the largest finance houses in the United Kingdom and is now a member of The Royal Bank of Scotland Group.
Lombard started life with an entrepreneurial investment in the railways of the mid-nineteenth century - and today still stands out with its innovative approach to helping people finance their business and personal assets.
Important milestones towards market leadership
The North Central Wagon Co is set up in Rotherham, South Yorkshire in 1861. A group of astute investors see the business possibilities in leasing wagons to local railway companies, collieries and quarries.
A black diamond representing a lump of coal is adopted as the company's symbol -still reflected in Lombard's logo today.
By 1900, nearly 25,000 railway wagons are on hire. After the First World War, the company begins to move into financing road transport.
In 1928, Prudential Assurance Co and the financier Connop Guthrie buy out the company, seeing huge potential. Prudential remains a major shareholder for the next thirty years and Guthrie, a brilliant entrepreneur knighted in 1936, transforms the business through acquisition and organic growth.
After the Second World War and nationalisation of the railways, the company moves more into financing cars and consumer durables. During the early 1950s, it diversifies by partnering with merchant bankers Seligman Brothers.
By 1958, banks begin to acquire links with hire purchase companies, and National Provincial Bank buys out the company. It has made a trading profit every year since its foundation, and when it celebrates its centenary in 1961, it has become the oldest surviving hire purchase company in the world.
After the merger of National Provincial Bank and Westminster Bank in 1968, North Central Finance - as it is now known - becomes a subsidiary of the new National Westminster Bank. In 1970, Lombard Banking is taken over by National Westminster Bank. Lombard Banking from its origins in 1946 had developed hire purchase activities and had become one of the UK's largest finance houses. In 1971 Lombard Banking and North Central Finance are combined as Lombard North Central.
During the 1970s, Lombard’s 'big ticket' leasing for such items as aircraft, ships and petrochemical works grows. In 1979 Lombard North Central is licensed as a deposit taking institution under the new Banking Act.
In the 1980s, asset-based financing for business grows dramatically. A Corporate Finance department begins to specialise in tailoring and negotiating facilities for major companies, pioneering combined leasing of industrial buildings, plant and machinery.
In consumer finance, finance is provided for consumer durables at over 20,000 retail outlets. The 1980s also bring an increase in Lombard's motor finance, working from 123 offices across the UK. Links are built with major motor manufacturers and dealers. These relationships are reflected in the company's sponsorship of the annual Lombard RAC Rally from 1978 to 1992.
The company comes out of the recession of the late 1980s and early 1990s making record profits, and is described by the Financial Times as 'an outstanding bright spot in the banking industry'.
In 1995 Lombard North Central changes its corporate identity and adopts the simple title of Lombard. Lombard Direct is launched, a telephone loans service for personal customers. Lombard Corporate Finance is also created, developing new leasing products for sectors such as films, aviation, maritime, technology and private finance.
In late 1998 Lombard secures its biggest deal to date, winning a bid to finance the purchase of 78 trains for Virgin Rail worth over £395 million. The business now specialises in distinct market segments - Lombard in asset finance for businesses, Lombard Direct in direct personal finance, and Lombard Banking Services in banking for overseas clients.
The year 2000 sees National Westminster Bank acquired by The Royal Bank of Scotland. Two of The Royal Bank's subsidiaries, RoyScot Trust and Royal Bank Leasing, are merged with Lombard to create a new force in asset finance.
In the new millennium, Lombard strides purposefully ahead, much changed from the original wagon finance company but still with the same emphasis on entrepreneurial success. As part of The Royal Bank of Scotland Group, Lombard has grown to be the UK's leading provider of asset finance.
Lombard sponsors various sporting events and athletes, including rowing champions Steve Redgrave and Matthew Pinsent, who represented the United Kingdom and won the country's only gold medal at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, and also at the Sydney games in 2000.
Previously Lombard Direct's telephone number was the same as their lending limit; their lending limit was £800 to £15,000 and their chosen telephone number appeared as 0800 2 15000 in adverts, although both have changed since. Lombard Direct's television and other adverts, are known for their animated, anthropomorphic, talking blue phone, known internally as ARNOLD (Apply Right Now On Lombard Direct), which has featured in them for several years.
Since August 2009, Lombard Direct have not offered new personal loans.