Provident Financial's Moneybarn business faces probe over treatment of customers

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Shares in the troubled sub-prime lender Provident Financial have fallen by up to 18%, after the firm revealed that its vehicle finance division is being investigated by the regulator.

The FCA granted Moneybarn authorisation to conduct consumer credit activities in June a year ago and has since continued to discuss the firm's processes with it. Moneybarn later announced that it had made a number of improvements, including to the way it deals with future loan terminations. It has issued two profit warnings, parted company with its chief executive and cancelled a dividend for shareholders.

Just last month, Provident also had to announce the death of its executive chairman who had been leading its turnaround.

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The latest shares plunge came after Bradford-based Provident Financial announced the investigation and said it would work with the watchdog.

The FCA granted Moneybarn authorisation to conduct consumer credit activities in 2016, since which the watchdog has encouraged the firm to make a number of improvements, including to the way it deals with future loan terminations.

Neil Wilson, a senior market analyst at ETX Capital, said the investigation signalled "more trouble at the Provvy".

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"Already stuck in a quagmire that is the badly handled restructuring of its home credit operations, coupled with an FCA investigation into historical sales of its repayment option plan (ROP) product at Vanquis, Provident has today announced that the FCA is now investigating Moneybarn, it's auto finance business".

Provident has around 2.5 million customers, many of whom would not qualify for a standard bank loan due to their poor credit records. The result was a sharp fall in its debt collection rates.

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