More Haste, less speed as Wonga hires new chairman

A bit of good news for the payday lender, which has lost both its CEO and chairman over the past few months. New chairman Andy Haste lost no time in setting out plans to 're-present' Wonga.

by Emma Haslett
Last Updated: 21 Nov 2014

It's fair to say payday lender Wonga hasn't had the easiest few months: not only did co-founder and chairman Errol Damelin finally throw in the towel last month just three weeks after chief exec Neil Wass quit, but on Friday the Church Commissioners, the investment arm of the Church of England, announced they'd finally found a way to pull out of their indirect investment into the company.

So it was due a bit of good news, and today it got it: Andy Haste, former chief executive of mega-insurer RSA, has agreed to be its new chairman. And he's lost no time in setting out a veritable manifesto for change. To wit:

1) To conduct a review of Wonga's customer base and products to ensure that the Group is lending only to customers who can reasonably afford to repay their loans.

2) To ensure all lending is conducted in a responsible and transparent manner and delivers the best outcomes for our customers. This will lead to a tightening of Wonga's lending criteria.

3) To address the total cost of credit and ensure even greater transparency in Wonga's products.

4) To re-present Wonga to the public, especially through its advertising, in a way that accesses the right type of customer and reduces the risk of inadvertently attracting the very young or vulnerable.

5) To build a sustainable business model with superior technology and operating processes that deliver effectively and put customers and good governance at the heart of everything Wonga does.

6) To engage positively with Wonga's regulators and other key stakeholders in all of its markets to ensure that the business is operated transparently, with the right systems and controls to protect those individuals for whom Wonga recognises its products are not appropriate.

To be fair to Wonga, it's one of the most reputable payday lenders (despite its threatening letters from made-up law firms), but Haste seems to have recognised the company's priority should be to revamp its image. Or 're-present'. Whatever.

'Our goal is to deliver the original vision for Wonga - to provide short-term lending to the right customers in a responsible and transparent way,' he said today.

'However, we are determined to make the necessary changes and serve our customers in the right way, to repair our reputation and become a business with a long-term future and an accepted place in the financial services industry.'

Easier said than done, wethinks - but at least with a solid background in finance, Haste knows what the industry is looking for.

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