Provident Financial profits fall 45% amid agent woes

Bradford-based home credit firm Provident Financial said its first half statutory profit before tax fell 45.6% to £90 million amid ongoing problems with its move from using self-employed agents to directly employed agents.

The firm has found it harder than expected to recruit debt collection agents.

Provident Financial said the fall in profits “reflects the disruption to collections and sales performance caused by a higher level of agent attrition together with reduced agent effectiveness during the migration of the home credit business to an employed workforce.”

Provident Financial shares fell more than 5% to around 2,170p to give it a current stock market value of roughly £3.2 billion.

Provident Financial CEO Peter Crook said: “Whilst I remain disappointed by the higher than expected operational disruption to trading in the home credit business, the new business model was deployed as planned during the first week in July …

“I am confident in the strategic rationale for the change and the business is working hard to improve customer service and collections performance ahead of the seasonally busy fourth quarter.

“Vanquis Bank, Moneybarn and Satsuma are booking record volumes of new business derived from a combination of product innovation and enhanced distribution.

“The group has continued to exercise strong discipline around credit and not observed changes in customer behaviour in relation to either demand for credit or credit performance.

“The board has maintained the interim dividend recognising the group’s medium-term growth opportunities.”