Lombard North Central
|Founded||Rotherham, South Yorkshire 1861|
|Headquarters||Crawley, United Kingdom|
|Products||Hire purchase, Insurance, Leasing, Loans|
|Owner||The Royal Bank of Scotland Group|
Lombard North Central, trading as Lombard, is a British-based finance company that specialise in asset based lending, founded in 1861. It is one of the largest finance houses in the United Kingdom and has been part of The Royal Bank of Scotland Group since 2000.
Lombard started life with an investment in the railways of the mid-nineteenth century leasing wagons.
Foundation as railway wagon leasing company
The North Central Wagon Co was 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 was adopted as the company's symbol.
By 1900, nearly 25,000 railway wagons were on hire. After the First World War, the company began to move into financing road transport.
Prudential Assurance buys the company
In 1928, Prudential Assurance Company and the financier Connop Guthrie bought out the company, seeing huge potential. Prudential remained a major shareholder for the next thirty years and Guthrie, an entrepreneur knighted in 1936, transformed the business through acquisition and organic growth.
After the Second World War and nationalisation of the railways, the company moved more into financing cars and consumer durables. During the early 1950s, it diversified by partnering with merchant bankers Seligman Brothers.
National Westminster bank becomes new owner
By 1958, banks began to acquire links with hire purchase companies, and National Provincial Bank bought out the company.
After the merger of National Provincial Bank and Westminster Bank in 1968, North Central Finance - as it was then known - became 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 grew. In 1979 Lombard North Central was licensed as a deposit taking institution under the new Banking Act.
In the 1980s, asset-based financing for business grew dramatically. A Corporate Finance department began 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 brought an increase in Lombard's motor finance, working from 123 offices across the UK. Links were built with major motor manufacturers and dealers. These relationships were reflected in the company's sponsorship of the annual Lombard RAC Rally from 1978 to 1992.
In 1995 Lombard North Central changed its corporate identity and adopted the simple title of Lombard. Lombard Direct was launched as a telephone loans service for personal customers. Lombard Corporate Finance was also created, developing new leasing products for sectors such as films, aviation, maritime, technology and private finance.
In late 1998 Lombard secured its biggest deal to date, winning a bid to finance the purchase of 78 trains for Virgin Rail Group worth over £395 million. The business now specialised 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. In 2000, National Westminster Bank was acquired by The Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), and two of RBS' subsidiaries, RoyScot Trust and Royal Bank Leasing were merged with Lombard.
Lombard launched Lombard Direct as a personal finance brand in 1995, initially as a telephone loans service. Lombard Direct provided loans within the limit of £800 to £15,000, and became known for their advertising featuring an animated anthropomorphic talking blue telephone. In August 2009, Lombard Direct discontinued writing new personal loans, and closed to new business.
Lombard have sponsored 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.
Lombard are title sponsors of the PGA and WPGA Lombard Trophy, a Pro-Am golf tournament. Tournaments take place across the UK with the grand final taking place in Portugal.