RACING & BANKING

The history of Weatherbys: exploring the relationship between Horse Racing and Banking




WITH ROYAL ASCOT TAKING PLACE THIS WEEK, HERE IS A BRIEF ACCOUNT OF WEATHERBYS' HISTORY AND HOW THE ORGANISATION EXPANDED FROM RACING INTO BANKING; A COMBINATION WHICH AT FIRST GLANCE MIGHT SEEM BIZARRE.

Horse racing is one of the longest established sports in Great Britain, with a history dating back many centuries.  The sport has taken place in this country since Roman times and many of the sport’s traditions and rules originated then.

The first horse races took place in Britain in 200AD at the Roman’s encampment at Wetherby in Yorkshire. Arabian horses, which had been brought to England by the Emperor Severus Septimus, were matched against our native English horses.
 
Over the course of the next few centuries the involvement of the royal family helped drive the popularity and growth of the sport, an interest they have maintained right up until the present day.  There are numerous records of Kings of England keeping ‘running horses’, as they were originally called, and by the reign of Henry VII there was a large royal stud.
 
Slowly the sport was formalised. The first recorded race was a match for £100 held in 1622 between horses owned by Lord Salisbury and the Marquess of Buckingham at Newmarket.  Newmarket Racecourse was founded in 1636.
 
In relation to James Weatherby and the story of Weatherbys, there were two very important developments in the 18th century: the introduction of three Arabian stallions to the breeding of horses in this country: and the establishment of the Jockey Club.
 
Historically English horses were bred for stamina and strength, qualities needed to carry men dressed in heavy armour into battle.  When matched against other horses, particularly the Arabian stallion, the English “running horses” were noticeably slower.
 
Various members of the aristocracy, keen to win their ‘matches’ and source extra speed to help them stay alive during battle, endeavoured to combine the Arabian gene pool with the British gene pool.  The resulting breed was called the English Thoroughbred.  Every single Thoroughbred horse today can be traced back to the three sires brought into the country: Byerley Turk, Darley Arabian and Godolphin Barb.
 
How did James Weatherbys, the founder of Weatherbys, benefit from these developments?  In two ways.
 
First he had the foresight and commercial sense to create a definitive record of the pedigrees of approximately 400 horses which were seen as the foundation for all Thoroughbred stock worldwide.  The first General Stud Book was published in 1791 and is still published by Weatherbys today.  In addition to that he started to create a record of all racing events since 1773 – again still published by Weatherbys today.
 

 
Pages from the General Stud Book
Source: Weatherbys Ltd

Second, as the sport continued to grow the Jockey Club was formed in 1750 and by   1770 James was appointed as Secretary to the Jockey Club, Keeper of the Match Book and Stakeholder thereby placing him at the very heart of the developing sport.
 
When racing first began, it was usually a match race between two or at most three horses with the owners providing a simple wager. These agreements were recorded by disinterested third parties, who came to be called keepers of the match book.  The role of ‘Stakeholder’ is clear on its face – they held onto the money.
 
So there begins the role of Weatherbys that involved both the administration of racing and the managing money.
 
Since the 1700s Weatherbys has gradually evolved its role to provide an increasing number of services to the racing industry and individual clients who owned race horses.  For example administrative services such as making payments to jockeys and trainers and more recently helping with VAT.
 
Today Weatherbys assists the British Horseracing Authority in its role of ensuring the smooth running of racing, 364 days of the year in the UK by providing administrative and data management services.

This involves facilitating the many and varied registrations, managing all race entries, providing and maintaining a dedicated website where jockeys can be booked, recording declarations, providing race officials with up-to-the-minute digital race day information and immediately after the result is called, finishing positions are transmitted directly from the Judge’s Box back to the Weatherbys database.
 
As you can see, over time Weatherbys became more and more involved with money and transaction. In the 1990s the latest generation of Weatherby – the new chairman Johnny Weatherby – realised that the activities of their business, coupled with new regulation, meant that he should approach the Bank of England to find out if his business needed a banking licence.
 
To cut a long story short, in 1994 Weatherbys was equipped with a banking license and Weatherbys Racing Bank was officially formed.
 
Meanwhile Johnny’s younger brother Roger, who joined in 1997 having learnt about finance at Cazenove, concluded that a full private banking service was the obvious next step for the Banking Group.  And so it was that in 2006, Weatherbys Private Bank was founded.
 
Although the Private Bank continues to look after many of their original racing bank clients, the client base is now made up of an eclectic and interesting range of people: artists, actors, accountants, entrepreneurs, farmers, jewellers, lawyers, landowners, musicians, and circus owners to name but a few.
 
As the business continues to grow and goes from strength to strength, the same founding principles apply: looking ahead, doing the right thing and delivering exceptional levels of customer service.  Which is no doubt why Weatherbys continues to flourish as a family owned business nearly 250 years after it was founded.
 

Roger Weatherby, Founder of Weatherbys Private Bank
Source: Weatherbys Ltd

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