Morses Club expects to see improvements in trading despite 'challenging' markets

MORSES Club, the UK's second largest home collected credit provider, said it had made strong progress with its digital division despite suffering a fall in customer numbers over the last half year.

The company said it had focused on the quality of lending which gives it confidence in future repayment levels.

Morses Club has announced its interim results for the 26 weeks ended August 29 2020.

Over the period, revenue decreased by 24.3% to £50.2m and the adjusted profit before tax was £2.3m, which is below the £9.6m recorded in the same period last year.

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The company said it had focused on the quality of lending which gives it confidence in future repayment levels.

Morses Club said it had delivered a rapid and comprehensive response to Covid-19, leveraging its existing digital technology and expertise.

Total group customer numbers were 205,000, compared with 276,000 in the same period last year.

In a statement to accompany the results, Morses Club said: "We expected customer numbers in HCC (home collected credit) to fall during the first half of the year, but the decrease in the number of customers has been considerably higher than expected.

"This is mainly due to restrictions on lending to new customers in place from March 2020 to mid-July 2020, which directly resulted in 25,000 fewer new customers. Combined with weaker customer demand which resulted in an increase in good paid-up customers of 9,000, this contributed to an overall reduction in customer numbers of 71,000 in the half-year."

Paul Smith, chief executive of Morses Club, commented: "In response to the Covid-19 pandemic, Morses Club responded decisively, leveraging its digital expertise and capabilities to accelerate its strategy of servicing customers remotely.

"Within just three weeks of lockdown in March, we recommenced lending to existing HCC customers and launched digital lending to new HCC customers in July 2020.

"Credit issued and collections in the HCC division were inevitably impacted by the loss of face-to-face interaction, but customers responded very positively to our remote HCC lending product with c. 65% of loans now being delivered through bank transfer.

"The acceleration of the digitalisation of our business can only serve to improve choice and flexibility for our customers, employees and agents.

"Our digital division continues to make strong progress. In August, we announced a new strategic relationship with Modulr, which will enable us to offer services not typically available outside of mainstream banking providers.

"The forthcoming launch of our improved mobile application and new lending products by the end of this financial year will deepen and broaden our customer base further.

"The way in which Morses Club has responded to the unprecedented challenges posed by Covid-19 is something that I am extremely proud of. I am hugely grateful to our colleagues across the company, all of whom went the extra mile to ensure that our customers' needs were met and continued to receive excellent customer service.

"The speed of progress we have made across the group in the period is testament to our investment in technology over a number of years and Morses Club is well-placed to become a more complete financial services provider in the growing and fragmented non-standard credit sector.

"Whilst we are pleased with the undoubted resilience shown by the business during H1, we are fully cognisant of the impact on consumer confidence due to the ongoing lockdowns across the UK, which directly affects the communities we serve.

"We accept that market conditions remain challenging but are confident that our approach will continue to deliver improvements."