Lombard North Central plc

Lombard (1971-date) is part of NatWest Group.

Brief history

Lombard North Central was created in 1971 by the merger, by Act of Parliament, of National Westminster Bank's two finance subsidiaries North Central Finance and Lombard Banking. The new company was organised in three divisions: Banking, Instalment Credit and International. It created a number of joint ventures during the 1970s, including British Leyland Finance and Farming & Agricultural Finance, and grew its 'big ticket' tax-based leasing for such items as aircraft, ships and petrochemical works. In 1984 a separate company, Lombard Business Equipment Leasing, was formed to finance the purchase of small assets like reprographics and vending machines. In the consumer finance market Lombard developed by growing its branch network, offering bespoke schemes for clubs and making Tricity Finance – which provided credit finance to more than 10,000 electrical, furniture, carpet and photographic shops – a wholly-owned subsidiary.

The 1970s also saw an increase in Lombard's motor finance, providing facilities to both dealers and their customers. In 1980 Lex Vehicle Leasing was set up to manage vehicle fleets. Joint ventures were established with a range of car manufacturers, including Jaguar, Alfa Romeo and Daihatsu, and later Porsche, Peugeot, Citroën, Nissan, Rolls-Royce and Fiat. These deepening relationships were reflected in the company’s long-term sponsorship of the annual RAC Rally from 1978 to 1992.

Other types of business were also pursued. Lombard was a leader in the finance of leisure products, through links with clubs including the Royal Yachting Association and the Caravan Club. Lex Systems Leasing was launched to finance technology for the business equipment industry and Lombard Home Loans to provide house purchase loans to the general public. Uniquely within the finance sector, Lombard also continued to raise funds from depositors.

In 1986 a large new head office building was constructed at Redhill, Surrey. The deep recession of the late 1980s and early 1990s was, however, a difficult period and the company was restructured into three sectors: motor, business and personal finance. It moved away from first mortgages and set up Lombard Home Finance 1992 to provide home improvement, marine, caravan, health and education finance. The motor and consumer businesses remained strong, in part owing to Lombard’s offering of good point-of-sale technology and automated credit scoring.

In 1995 Lombard North Central adopted the shorter name Lombard. That year it re-entered the 'big ticket' leasing market with the creation of Lombard Corporate Finance and, in the personal sector, launched Lombard Direct, an early telephone loans service. Through the late 1990s Lombard streamlined its operations, culminating in the sale of three point-of-sale finance businesses. Links were increasingly forged with NatWest's Commercial Banking Services to provide better support to the Group’s corporate customers. The remaining Lombard consumer finance businesses – Lombard Bank, Lombard Direct and Lombard Banking Services – were brought into NatWest’s Card Services division to bring new customers to NatWest through the Lombard brand.

In 2000 National Westminster Bank was acquired by the Royal Bank of Scotland Group and Lombard subsequently absorbed the Royal Bank's asset finance subsidiaries, RoyScot Trust (est. 1936) and Royal Bank Leasing (est. 1972). The merged businesses were restructured into three areas – Business Finance, Corporate Finance and Banking Services – alongside the retained joint venture companies. Lombard subsequently worked closely with Angel Trains, a rolling stock lessor acquired by the Royal Bank in 1998, and acquired a specialist aviation business to boost its aircraft finance capabilities in 2001.

Published history

  • Lombard: 150 years of Innovation (Redhill: privately published by the Royal Bank of Scotland, 2011)

Summary of our archive holdings

Our archival records of Lombard North Central plc have the reference code LNC.

For help understanding words used here, check our glossary of banking record types (PDF 68 KB).

  • memorandum and articles of association 1971
  • annual reports 1971-(1985)
  • staff magazines 1973-(1985)
  • promotional leaflets and rate calculators 1970s-80s
  • photographs: directors, head office and branches 1970s-80s
  • Lombard RAC rally programmes 1982-(1985)