On 1 February 1953, the Netherlands was struck by the North Sea flood. This disaster took 1,836 human lives and also killed tens of thousands of animals. Approximately 100,000 people lost their homes and possessions. The material damage amounted to more than 5% of the national income. The Nederlandse Waterschapsbank was founded on 5 May 1954 to help the water authorities raise the enormous investment needed to protect our country against water.
And yet the bank was not founded as an immediate result of the disaster. Plans were already being drawn up to set up a bank for the water authorities in 1939. The board of the Association of Dutch Water Authorities took the final decision to launch the bank in December 1952. So it is ironic that, at best, the disaster in February 1953 only served to accelerate the establishment of the bank.
Key financer in the public domain
The founders of the bank wanted to provide risk-free capital to regional water authorities. Self-interest did not play a part in this endeavour. Initially, the bank aimed to secure the best possible terms for the water authorities. But the founders also stressed that the bank was open to doing business with other public and semi-public organisations. Indeed, soon after the bank was launched, it began to finance municipalities and social housing. That is how the bank became a key financer in the public domain.
NWB Bank as trade name
The trade name NWB Bank went into effect in 2009. The legal name is still Nederlandse Waterschapsbank N.V. In 2014, NWB Bank came under the direct supervision of the European Central Bank as a ‘significant bank’. This indicates the importance of the bank and its position in the banking landscape.