Provident Financial has a rich history dating back to 1880 when the company was founded in Bradford, West Yorkshire, by Joshua Kelley Waddilove.
Joshua worked as an insurance agent and in the course of his work saw at first hand how some working class families struggled to pay for essential items such as furniture, clothes and shoes. Joshua realised that something needed to change and devised a system to help families provide for themselves through the use of vouchers which could be exchanged in local shops for clothing, food and coal. The families then repaid the vouchers in small weekly instalments which they could afford.
Word soon spread and demand for the vouchers grew. Joshua opened an office and recruited agents to help collect the repayments, creating the foundations on which, over a century later, Provident Financial still operates.
The new company was called Provident Clothing and Supply Co Ltd and by the time Joshua died in 1920 it had grown into a nationwide business with over 5,000 agents operating from a head office in Bradford. In the period since, the business has endured numerous social and economic challenges, notably the Wall Street Crash in 1929, the First and Second World Wars, the trade union strikes of the 1970s and the miners’ strikes of the 1980s.
In 1962, the company was floated on the stock market. One of the biggest events in the company’s history, it marked the transition from private family business to public company under the new name of Provident Financial plc. The flotation was followed by a period of growth for the company as product ranges were expanded to reflect the ever-changing needs of the modern customer. In 1967 a new, larger head office was built on Sunbridge Road, Bradford, to accommodate the increasing number of employees. In 2010 the company moved to a brand new, purpose-built head office in the heart of Bradford city centre.
In the 1990s, the home credit service was launched overseas, and now operates in many countries worldwide. Following a demerger in 2007, the international business currently trades independently as a separately listed company called International Personal Finance plc.
In 2003, Vanquis Bank started trading, and has grown to become a successful credit card provider with over 777,000 customers in the UK and has now started taking retail deposits. Today, more than 130 years since it was founded in Bradford, Provident Financial is a FTSE 250 mid-shares company listed on the London Stock exchange with over 2.6 million customers.