Page 5: Recruitment of staff
Each overseas operation was headed up by one UK manager, each of whom had many years’ experience gained in Provident Personal Credit. However, local staff also needed to be recruited as agents and administrative clerks. At first, English speaking staff were recruited in Poland and the Czech Republic and trained in the UK. However, it proved difficult to recruit staff who had both the skills the company required and good English language skills. As a result, local training facilities were established and training materials were translated into local languages. At the same time new employees were given assistance to learn English or improve their existing English language skills.
The choice of home credit product to be offered in each new country had to be carefully assessed. It was necessary to offer a loan which closely matched the amount that the potential customers wanted to borrow and to set weekly repayments for such a loan at a level they would be able to afford. The market research already carried out had helped to identify what kind of home credit product would most closely meet customers’ needs. At the beginning, only one product was offered. Provident planned to assess how successful this first product was with customers before offering additional products, i.e. loans of a higher value which could be repaid over a longer period of time.
Although Provident Financial had considerable experience of marketing in the UK, it was understood that these methods might not be culturally appropriate in Poland and the Czech Republic. However, the methods of recruiting customers that have worked well in the UK, such as leaflet delivery and personal recommendation from existing customers, were also found to work well in Central Europe. In addition, home credit could also be promoted through newspaper advertising.
Provident Financial’s Polish subsidiary, Provident Polska, granted its first loan in January 1997. The Czech subsidiary, Provident Financial sro, granted its first loan in August of the same year. Today, Provident Financial has more than 80,000 customers in Poland and the Czech Republic. By the end of 1999 Provident Financial sro will have a network of branches which will enable it to offer home credit in all the main population centres in the Czech Republic. Provident Polska is also rapidly expanding its branch network. By the end of this year it will have established branches in 30 per cent of areas in Poland. Provident Financial has proved that the home credit service it offers meets the requirements of customers in countries outside the UK. Provident Financial’s Polish and Czech subsidiary home credit companies now have a network of branches across Poland and the Czech Republic with more than 2,000 agents. By September 1999, in Central Europe customer numbers were increasing at a rate of more than 2,500 a week.