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Provident's Moneybarn unit being investigated by UK's FCA

Provident's Moneybarn unit being investigated by UK's FCA
December 5, 2017

LONDON (Reuters) - British lender Provident Financial  said the country’s financial watchdog had opened an investigation into Moneybarn, its car and van financing arm.

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) investigation will examine the “processes applied to customer affordability assessments for vehicle finance and the treatment of customers in financial difficulties”, Provident said.

The British sub-prime lender has run into trouble after trying to reorganise its door-to-door lending business by ending its model of using self-employed agents as debt collectors and replacing them with directly employed staff.

Against a backdrop of broader public and political criticism of the high-interest lending sector, Provident is already contending with lost income resulting from an FCA investigation into its Vanquis Bank.

Provident said on Tuesday that the FCA has already discussed certain processes with Moneybarn which had led to a number of “process improvements”.

The lender said it will work with the FCA to investigate the remaining concerns and fix any outstanding related issues “as soon as practicable”.

“While this may well be resolved without harm to Moneybarn’s business, it adds another overhang to the stock. In our forecasts for 2018, Moneybarn accounted for 40.2 million pounds of a total group underlying pretax profit of about 164 million pounds,” Jefferies analysts said.

Banks’ reluctance to lend since the financial crisis has made more Britons look to lenders charging high interest rates such as Provident.

There are around 1.5 million people borrowing in this way, taking more than 1.1 billion pounds of credit. Provident Financial’s brands include Vanquis Bank, consumer credit division Provident, Moneybarn, and Satsuma, which gives online, short-term loans.