Morses Club PLC ("Morses Club", the "Company" or, together with its subsidiary undertakings, the "Group"), an established provider of non-standard financial services, provides the following trading update for the 52-week period to 27 February 2021 ("FY21").
The Group performed resiliently and profitably during a challenging year, where our primary focus was on supporting our customers and protecting the wellbeing of our teams and agents. Morses Club responded to the profound impact that the pandemic and ensuing market conditions have had on the Group by accelerating our existing digital strategy and taking advantage of the opportunity to expedite the tech-enabled transformation of the business.
We quickly moved to a remote Home Collect Credit ("HCC") lending model, which was made possible by the Group's previous investment in its digital capability, and our well-advanced digital platform enabled us to re-commence lending to existing customers just three weeks after lockdown was announced in March 2020. 64% of lending in our HCC division is now cashless and transacted through our portal, with customers signed up to the portal rising by c.70% during the period. Customer satisfaction remains very high, unchanged at 97%, reflecting, in part, our customers' positive experience of our new remote lending model. We expect this to be a permanent shift in customer behaviour and our research clearly indicates that both customers and agents see digital lending as the future of the HCC market.
The Group has focused on the quality of lending since the start of the pandemic, with strong collection rates and levels of impairment reflecting this. The collection to terms performance within HCC has continued to improve, with Q3 FY21 at 95% of historical expectations and Q4 FY21 rising to 100% of historical expectations. Total credit issued within HCC reduced by 37.0% to £109.7m (FY20: £174.2m) reflecting reduced demand due to various national and regional lockdowns during the year, along with the Group's stricter lending criteria to protect the quality of the loan book. The HCC gross loan book reduced by 28.6% to £102.1m (FY20: £142.9m) and total customer numbers within HCC were 152,000 (FY20: 221,000). The confidence and support of our funding partners provides further validation of our strategy, as we secured an extension of our revolving credit facility in April 2020.
The Digital division implemented two new platforms over the period, creating a robust banking proposition and strengthening the existing loans management system. As with HCC, total credit issued and customer numbers within the Digital division were impacted by reduced demand due to lockdown measures along with the Group's tightening of lending criteria to maintain high quality lending. Total credit issued increased by 21.4% to £19.3m (FY20: £15.9m) and customer numbers were 29,000 (FY20: 33,000). The division is now primed for growth with new robust platforms and a significant target market. The division's strong collection figures demonstrate the platform's capabilities and we are now focused on scaling the business and achieving run-rate breakeven by the end of FY22.
We also took the opportunity to implement a number of other structural changes to the business, supporting employees and agents working from home, and restructuring the Group's property portfolio, which is now largely complete with all 89 branches operationally closed on a permanent basis. Morses Club has not furloughed any staff nor sought any government assistance throughout the period.
Subject to audit review, we anticipate that Group profit before tax for FY21 will be ahead of current market expectations. Morses Club intends to pay a dividend for FY21, demonstrating its confidence in the Group's prospects.
Paul Smith, Chief Executive Officer of Morses Club, said:
"First and foremost, I would like to extend my heartfelt thanks to all of our teams and agents, who have worked tirelessly to ensure that our customers have continued to receive excellent customer service. Without their teamwork and support, we would not have ended the year in as strong a position as we have.
"Last year was a challenging yet transformational year for Morses Club, during which we demonstrated the robustness of our business model. The pandemic has resulted in the acceleration of our digital strategy, vindicating our previous investment, and as a result, we have made a number of permanent changes to our offering to meet changing customer behaviour.
"Our strong new operating platforms, increasing suite of services and first-class customer service ensure the Group is well-placed to capitalise on opportunities going forward. We are encouraged by evidence of pent-up demand for our growing number of products as lockdown eases and we look forward to making further progress in facilitating financial inclusion across the UK as the economy gradually rebounds during 2021."