Provident chief quits with £500,000 pay-off

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The Independent Online

Provident Financial's chief executive, Robin Ashton, is quitting after five years in the top job.

Mr Ashton is set to depart the home credit company with a pay-off in excess of £500,000, although he will stay with the group until April to "assist the board as required". He has worked there for 23 years.

Provident, which provides high-interest loans to low-income groups, has endured a difficult five years under Mr Ashton, particularly in the wake of the disastrous acquisition of Yes Car Credit - which had to be closed down at a cost to shareholders of £160m.

It is subject to a Competition Commission inquiry, due to report later this month, and is planning to spin off its international businesses as a separate listed company. The overseas operations have also endured difficulties, with the Hungarian business closed because of changes required by the local regulator and price caps imposed on the Polish operations. However, John van Kuffeler, the chairman, said the company's travails were not the reason for Mr Aston's departure.

He said: "We have worked closely together for the last 15 years, but we have the demerger of the international businesses to come and it is quite natural to look at the boards and ensure that we have the right talent.

"That obviously involves talking about Robin and five years is about the right time, for both the company and the individual's needs, to be thinking about the next career step upwards."

He admitted it had been a "tough five years", but said Mr Ashton had been a "dedicated and hard-working" chief executive.

Mr Ashton said in a statement: "I am proud to have led Provident Financial and to have helped build and develop the businesses."

The shares gained 2p to 630.5p.