Nationwide Building Society will become the second-biggest mortgage lender in the UK once its merger with Portman is finalised next year.It will leapfrog Abbey and Lloyds TSB in the pack behind runaway leader HBOS at the top of the mortgage lending league. The merger between Nationwide and Portman is expected to be completed in September 2007, creating a giant with combined assets of 150bn. It will use the Nationwide name, with the Portman brand disappearing. The combined group will have over 880 branches, with the Portman branches rebranded. Nationwide finance director Graham Beale will become chief executive on April 1, 2007, after the retirement of Nationwide CEO Philip Will-iamson. Williamson is credited by many in the industry with reviving the society’s fortunes over recent years. Portman CEO Robert Sharpe, who steered a successful merger with the Staffordshire Building Society in 2003, will retire next year, leaving Beale in charge of the merged group. Portman is due to merge with Lambeth Building Society at the end of September. Williamson says: “I know that we can be in an even stronger position to provide our members with better product pricing.” Both firms have pledged to keep job losses to a minimum although there will be cuts where there is duplication. Nationwide says it has a turnover of around 1,000 staff a year and hopes the majority of cuts will come through natural wastage. Nationwide’s Swindon head office will be the headquarters for the new operation and Portman’s Bournemouth hub is likely to be the centre for intermediary and specialist lending, Nationwide’s Northamp- ton office is likely to retain its admin role.