James Moore: Compared with this lot, the Sheriff of Nottingham looks like a good guy

 

Outlook Robin Hood is trying hard, but it's the Sheriff of Nottingham who is in the ascendant in today's Britain. Actually, the bad guy from Nottingham Castle looks like a rank amateur compared to modern exponents of squeezing the poor to fatten the rich who have turned the practice into a science.

For this year's Nobel prize step forward Provident Financial. Just how effective Provvie has been was writ large by yesterday's results statement: the company was ahead in just about every positive metric you'd want to be ahead in, with its Vanquis Bank the star performer.

Vanquis has succeeded with a business model that is the direct opposite of what did for Northern Rock.

The latter borrowed short to lend long and came unstuck as a result. Vanquis borrows long by tying its savers up so it can lend very short (at very high rates). If you're in the happy position of having £1,000 or more to invest and are willing to commit to keeping your hands off it for between one and five years, Vanquis will offer you up to 4.5 per cent, a rate you probably won't have seen since before the financial crisis.

Provvie can use the money thus raised to lend at rates that are somewhat higher, in excess of 400 per cent for some products, to people in a very unhappy position. The formula is proving to be phenomenally successful as the banks have withdrawn from large parts of the market: Provvie now boasts 2.5 million customers.

It's probably worth pointing out now that Provvie is actually starting to attain an (undeserved) aura of respectability, largely because its rivals are so awful.

Incredibly, Vanquis' website was even touting a story from trade journal Money Management on a credit union calling for an interest rate cap on payday loans, where annual equivalent interest rates can exceed 1,000 per cent.

See, the Sheriff's not such a bad guy! It's Guy of Gisborne and his men who are the real thugs.

The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) – which has blasted Provvie for excess profits from its hard-up clientele – says so too. It is investigating the payday loans sector. Such an inquiry doesn't go far enough.

An interest rate cap is anathema to the OFT's economists, but given the weak position of people who approach Provvie and its ilk for credit (often desperate enough to pay whatever is demanded), it is time they gave it serious consideration. For the whole sub-prime sector, not just payday loans.

Until, it does, Provvie is set fair for the biggest party Nottingham Castle's ever seen. It had some difficult times a few years back, but the business has since been restructured. It's now fighting fit and the Sheriff couldn't be prouder.

Really, Provvie ought to use him in its ads. Like pawnbrokers H&T and Albermarle & Bond, and its internet rival Wonga, Provident, fuelled by Vanquis, has become a bona fide British success story. A depressing sign of the times.

j.moore@independent.co.uk

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
Supporting role: at the Supreme Court, Rhodes was accompanied by a famous friend, the actor Benedict Cumberbatch
booksPianist James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to stop the injunction of his memoirs
Arts and Entertainment
Jesuthasan Antonythasan as Dheepan
filmDheepan, film review
Sport
Steven Gerrard scores for Liverpool
sport
News
peopleComedian star of Ed Sullivan Show was mother to Ben Stiller
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
Richard Blair is concerned the trenches are falling into disrepair
newsGeorge Orwell's son wants to save war site that inspired book
Life and Style
Audrey Hepburn with Hubert De Givenchy, whose well-cut black tuxedo is a 'timeless look'
fashionIt may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
News
George Osborne became Chancellor in 2010
peopleChancellor accused of reneging on pre-election promise
Arts and Entertainment
The pair in their heyday in 1967
music
News
Lena Headey plays Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones
people
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Neil Pavier: Management Accountant

£45,000 - £55,000: Neil Pavier: Are you looking for your next opportunity for ...

Sheridan Maine: Commercial Accountant

£45,000 - £55,000: Sheridan Maine: Are you a newly qualified ACA/ACCA/ACMA qua...

Laura Norton: Project Accountant

£50,000 - £60,000: Laura Norton: Are you looking for an opportunity within a w...

Day In a Page

'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern