Northern Rock

Northern Rock
Northern Rock
Type Public ownership[1][2]
Industry Bank
Founded 1965
2010 (Current bank)
Headquarters Northern Rock House, Gosforth, Newcastle upon Tyne, England, UK
Area served UK, Ireland
Key people Ron Sandler (Executive chairman)
Services Banking, Mortgages
Revenue £5 billion (2006)
Operating income £627 million (2006)
Profit £443 million (2006)
Owner(s) Her Majesty's Government (UKFI) - (Deal with Virgin Money due to complete 1 January 2012)
Employees ~4500 (as of September 2008)[3]

Northern Rock plc (former London Stock Exchange ticker symbol NRK) is a British bank, best known for becoming the first bank in 150 years to suffer a bank run after having had to approach the Bank of England for a loan facility, to replace money market funding, during the credit crisis in 2007. [4] Having failed to find a commercial buyer for the business, it was taken into public ownership in 2008. It is based at Regent Centre in Newcastle upon Tyne, United Kingdom. Formerly the Northern Rock Building Society, the bank was formed in 1997 when the society floated on the London Stock Exchange. Since 1 January 2010 the "Northern Rock" name has referred to two companies – this bank, Northern Rock plc, and a separate asset company, Northern Rock (Asset Management) plc.[5]

On 17 November 2011 it was announced that Virgin Money were going to buy Northern Rock plc for £747 million up front and other potential payments of up to £280 million over the next few years.[6] The sale is expected to go through on 1 January 2012. The government said it had no plans to sell Northern Rock (Asset Management). There will be no further job losses, except for the ones already announced. Virgin have also pledged to keep the headquarters of the bank in Newcastle upon Tyne.[7] The deal is pending regulatory and EU merger approval, and the combined business will operate under the Virgin Money brand.[8]



Northern Rock Building Society was formed in 1965 as a result of the merger of two North East Building Societies; the Northern Counties Permanent Building Society (established in 1850) and the Rock Building Society (established in 1865). During the 30 years that followed, Northern Rock expanded by acquiring 53 smaller building societies, most notably the North of England Building Society in 1994.[9]

Along with many other UK building societies in the 1990s, Northern Rock chose to demutualise and float on the stock exchange, to be able to expand their business more easily. Throughout this period a concern against demutualisation was that the assets of a mutual society were built up by its members throughout its history, not just by current members, and that demutualisation was a betrayal of the community that the societies were created to serve.[10][11][12][13] Northern Rock chose to address these concerns by founding the Northern Rock Foundation.[14] At its Stock Exchange flotation Northern Rock distributed shares to members with savings accounts and mortgage loans. It joined the stock exchange as a minor bank and was expected to be taken over by one of its larger rivals, but it remained independent.

In 2000, Northern Rock gained promotion to the FTSE 100 Index, but was demoted back to the FTSE 250 in December 2007[15] and later suspended from the LSE due to the bank's nationalisation.

On 14 September 2007, during the financial crisis of 2007–2010, the Bank sought and received a liquidity support facility from the Bank of England,[16] following problems in the credit markets caused by the US subprime mortgage financial crisis.

The bank was nationalised at 00:01 on 22 February 2008 as a result of two unsuccessful bids to take over the bank, neither being able to fully commit to repayment of taxpayers' money. In doing so the Government effectively took ownership away from its shareholders, as of August 2011 without reimbursement. The media also reported cases where some shareholders had their life savings in the shares, which were taken from them.[17][18] The shares had already lost over 90% of their value prior to nationalization, and were valued at nil in an independent valuation process.

On 1 January 2010 the bank was split into two parts, assets and banking.[19] In June 2011 the bank was officially put up for sale back to the private sector.

On 17 November 2011 it was announced that Virgin Money were going to buy Northern Rock plc for £747 million.[6]


A typical Northern Rock branch, on Northumberland Street, Newcastle upon Tyne. The clock outside this branch, the bottom of which can just be seen, is emblazoned with the bank's name and has become a popular image in print and television coverage of the Northern Rock crisis.

Northern Rock has been one of the top five mortgage lenders in the United Kingdom in terms of gross lending according to Council of Mortgage Lenders statistics.[20]

As well as mortgages, the bank also deals with savings accounts, loans and insurance. The company also promotes secured loans to its existing mortgage customers. The unsecured loans business is administered and underwritten by Ventura based in Leeds. Home and contents insurance is dealt with by AXA whilst Legal & General, whose mortgage book Northern Rock took over, arrange insurance and stock-market-based investments. Payment Protection Insurance (PPI) can be arranged with London-based Cardif Pinnacle.[21]

In 2003, to free capital for its rapid growth in mortgage lending, the bank sold its credit card business to The Co-operative Bank for a profit of more than £7 million. Until November 2007 Northern Rock continued to sell credit cards under their own brand through The Co-operative Bank; the decision to stop was made before the 2007 crisis.[22]

In 2006 the bank had moved into sub-prime lending via a deal with Lehman Brothers. Although the mortgages were sold under Northern Rock's brand through intermediaries, the risk was being underwritten by Lehman Brothers.[23][24]


The 1990s Northern Rock buildings at Regent Centre.
The Tower building, prior to its sale.

The bank is based on a large site at the Regent Centre in Gosforth, Newcastle upon Tyne. It has customer contact centre operations at both Doxford International Business Park in Sunderland and at its head office. The bank developed a site at Rainton Bridge,[25] which it sold to Npower.[26][27]

Gosforth site

Northern Rock has recently completed the redevelopment of the Gosforth site, Northern Rock House, which saw the demolition of the original 1960s tower block during Spring 2006. A new tower block, simply known as The Tower,[28] was completed in November 2008, originally intended to create 1500 jobs, and act as the main entrance and focal point of the company headquarters.[29] This will now also likely be sold or leased as the additional space has become surplus to requirements.[30] The local council, Newcastle City Council, purchased the building for £22 million, and leased it to a green support services company, Eaga (now Carillion Energy).[31]

The Gosforth site currently consists of the Kielder and Prudhoe buildings, completed in the early 1990s, behind which lies the distinctive glass-fronted Alnwick building. The main Atrium reception is adjacent to this, opening out onto Baker Street, a large covered atrium that houses a restaurant, shop and on-site branch. A number of other buildings, all named after North-Eastern castles are joined to Baker Street.

Outside the UK

A sub-division in Guernsey was established in February 1996,[32] handling offshore savings and investment accounts. The Guernsey business was shut down on 2 September 2010.[33]

Northern Rock opened a branch in Ireland on 16 November 1999[34] and the first branch in Northern Ireland followed on 4 April 2007. The first branch of the bank opened in Denmark on 7 February 2007;[35] however as part of the Government restructuring, the Danish operations ceased on 18 June 2008.

Corporate image

Northern Rock logo used until 2000

In 2000 Northern Rock introduced a new corporate identity consisting of a magenta square containing the company name. This replaced the NR 'blocks' logo. The Northern Rock Foundation also changed its logo in 2003 from the NR 'blocks' inline with the main company, using the same new typeface. The Red Box Design Group designed all the currently standing buildings at the company's headquarters in Gosforth[36][37][38][39][40][41] and have contributed to many of the other design aspects of the company, such as the in-branch styling.[42] From 1 October 1997 until the government nationalisation, the bank used the symbol NRK on the London Stock Exchange.

Board of directors

Another section of the bank's Gosforth site.

Prior to the credit crisis the company had focused on developing its own staff and most appointments including the Chief Executive, were made internally.

At the time of the 2007 financial crisis Matt Ridley was the Chairman and Adam Applegarth was the Chief Executive. Ridley resigned in October 2007 and Applegarth resigned in November 2007, although the latter stayed on in a caretaker role until December 2007. The Chief Executive was Andy Kuipers, who joined the company in 1987, and retired on 31 August 2008.[43]

In February 2008, Ron Sandler was appointed Executive Chairman by the government. Gary Hoffman became Chief Executive of Northern Rock in October 2008. He had previously been the vice chairman of Barclays and a former Managing Director of Barclaycard.[44] With the appointment of Gary Hoffman, Ron Sandler changed to a Non-Executive Chairman position.

Since the split of the bank into Northern Rock plc and Northern Rock (Asset Management) plc on 1 January 2010, each company has its boards of directors.[45]

On 4 November 2010 Northern Rock announced that Gary Hoffman has left the bank and is to move to NBNK Investments as CEO. NBNK Investments cannot table a bid for Northern Rock for a period of 12 months.[46]

Northern Rock plc board as of 8 April 2010:

  • Chairman: Ron Sandler
  • Chief Executive: Gary Hoffman
  • Chief Financial Officer: Jim McConville
  • Executive Directors: Rick Hunkin
  • Non-Executive Directors: Laurie Adams, Richard Coates, Mike Fairey, Mark Pain, Mary Phibbs


The company sponsored many local sports clubs and events, including Newcastle United Football Club,[47] Newcastle Falcons (rugby union), Newcastle Eagles (basketball), Durham and Middlesex County Cricket clubs, professional golfer Paul Eales and the cycling festival Northern Rock Cyclone.[48] The sponsorship of Newcastle United began in 2003, and was set to expire in 2010, before an extension to 2014. This extension included a get-out clause in June 2012, which was activated in November 2011.[49] The current five year deal from 2005 to 2010 was worth £25 million.[50]

In 2005, to coincide with the Spirit of the Tall Ships Festival, Northern Rock enlisted the help of Red Box Interiors to create a temporary art installation at The Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art on the Gateshead Quay of the Tyne. The art entitled "Northern Rock @ Baltic" included mobile light stem sculptures and large scale external graphics.[51]

Northern Rock sponsors the North East Premier League competition for recreational club cricket.[52] In 2006 Northern Rock sponsored the All*Star Cup celebrity Golf match, which was shown on ITV.[53][54] The bank also sponsors a junior golf tournament, The Rock Junior Golf Festival, held at Matfen Hall.[55]

In 2007, almost three weeks before the bank had to appeal to the Bank of England for an emergency loan, the bank bought the home ground of Newcastle Falcons Rugby Club, Kingston Park stadium[50] for £15 million. In February 2008, documents relating to the sale came to light, attracting much criticism that the purchase has been made at a time of impending crisis.[56] In late 2008 the bank sold Kingston Park Stadium to Northumbria University for an undisclosed fee.[57]

It was confirmed on 20 May 2008 that Northern Rock would continue to sponsor both Newcastle United and the Newcastle Falcons, the former due to the long term agreement between them and the club. The sponsorship agreement with the Falcons came to an end before the start of the 2010/11 season.[58]

On 18 January 2010 Northern Rock announced that they had signed a new 4 year sponsorship deal with Newcastle United, worth between £1.5 million and £10 million, starting from the 2010/11 season.[59]

Northern Rock Foundation

Northern Rock Foundation.png

The company donates substantial amounts annually to its own charity, the Northern Rock Foundation. The foundation was formed when the company was floated, with an initial donation of 15% of the share capital and a covenant to donate 5% of the company's annual profit thereafter.[60][61] In 2006, Northern Rock was the second largest charitable giver in the FTSE 100 after ITV.[62]

In April 1996, when the Building Society was considering demutualisation, plans were announced by the then chairman, Robert Dickinson, for the creation of the foundation. Since the official launch of the foundation in January 1998, it has steadily grown and expanded its activities. The Foundation's work is carried out by a professional staff team of 12 based in Gosforth.[63] Previously in 2007 there had been 25 staff at the foundation.[64] In 2003, along with a new logo and the introduction of new programmes, the Foundation moved to a new building – the renovated Old Chapel in Gosforth. At the end of 2006 the foundation received £28.2 million investment. By the end of 2007 £190 million had been donated to the foundation, by Northern Rock.

Nationalisation ended the covenant requiring Northern Rock to remit a share of profits to the Foundation. Instead, for the next three years the Foundation was to receive an annual £15 million payment from Northern Rock, whether it remained publicly owned or returned to the private sector. The Foundation's shares were to be cancelled and compensated in the same way as those of other shareholders.[65] £7.3 million was awarded during the first 10 months of 2008, with an expected further £3.7 million before the end of the year.[66]

Upon the sale to Virgin, the deals with the Northern Rock Foundation will be extended to at least 2013, giving Virgin and the Foundation time to agree how they will work together.

Subprime mortgage crisis and nationalisation

People queuing outside a branch in Golders Green, London, to withdraw their savings due to fallout from the subprime crisis.

Northern Rock had a business plan which involved borrowing heavily in the UK and international money markets, extending mortgages to customers based on this funding, and then re-selling these mortgages on international capital markets, a process known as securitisation. When the global demand from investors for securitised mortgages dropped in August 2007, Northern Rock became unable to repay loans from the money market with money which should have been raised from securitisation. The problems were anticipated by the financial markets, which made the issue more public. On 14 September 2007, the bank sought and received a liquidity support facility from the Bank of England, to replace funds it was unable to raise from the money market. This led to panic among individual depositors fearing that their savings might not be available should Northern Rock go into receivership. This led to a bank run – the UK's first in 150 years – where depositors lined up outside the bank to withdraw all of their savings as quickly as possible, particularly since everyone else was doing the same.[4]

On 22 February 2008, the bank was taken into state ownership as a result of two unsuccessful bids to take over the bank, neither being able to fully commit to repayment of taxpayers' money within three years.[1] The bank is managed at "arms length" by the government through UK Financial Investments Limited.[67]

The bank planned to repay the government debt within three to four years, primarily by encouraging mortgage customers to take their mortgage to another lender. Costs were also reduced by reducing numbers of staff.[68] As of 3 March 2009, the bank was repaying the loan well ahead of target, owing a net balance of only £8.9 billion of the loan which stood at £26.9 billion at the end of 2007.[69]

By October, customers appeared to be regaining confidence in the bank, when it emerged that there had been a surge in the number of new accounts which had been opened.[70] People perceived Northern Rock as a safe place to put their money, given that it is currently government owned. However there is no guarantee that if Northern Rock was to fail that the government would top-up any compensation over and above the standard £85,000 offered by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme.[71]

Former shareholders and hedge funds also took legal action in January 2009 to get a fair level of compensation for their shares; the shareholders lost the case.[72][73] They also lost their appeals in the British courts, but hope to take the case to the European courts.[74][75] On 8 December 2009, it was announced that the valuer Andrew Caldwell had decided that the Northern Rock shareholders should get no compensation.[76]

On 23 February 2009, Northern Rock announced that they would be offering £14 billion worth of new mortgages, over the next two years, as a part of their new business plan.[77] This new lending will be partly funded by an increase in the government loan, a reversal of previous strategy to pay the loan off as quickly as possible by actively encouraging mortgage customers to leave when their mortgage deal matures. The reason for this change was government policy to increase the availability of credit. This £14 billion will be split into £5 billion in 2009 and £9 billion in 2010.[78][dated info]

Potential buyers for the bank include Virgin Money, National Australia Bank, NBNK, Santander, Blackstone, Tesco, TowerBrook, Yorkshire Building Society and Coventry Building Society.[79] Former Chancellor of the Exchequer Alistair Darling had stated that he was in no "hurry" to return the bank to the private sector.[80] In July 2010, it was reported that a consortium of City executives were gathering to place a bid for Northern Rock.[81]

The bank was split into two parts, assets and banking on 1 January 2010.[82] On 15 June 2011, it was announced that the bank was to be sold to a single buyer in the private sector by the end of the year.[83]

On 22 March 2011, the bank issued its first mortgage securitisation since the 2007 recession which nearly brought the bank down.[84]

On 17 November 2011 it was announced that Virgin Money were going to buy Northern Rock plc for £747 million.[6]

See also


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External links

Official websites
Other websites

Coordinates: 55°00′37″N 1°37′34″W / 55.0104°N 1.6260°W / 55.0104; -1.6260

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