Non-standard lender Provident Financial Plc said on Thursday that it had made a strong start to 2008, with customer numbers up 6.3 per cent in its core consumer credit division at the end of the first quarter.

John van Kuffeler, chairman of the company said, We are delighted with the strong start to 2008. Market conditions remain favourable for Provident Financial and the company's funding position is strong. At the same time, management is exercising a sensible degree of caution in order to deliver further high-quality growth in 2008 against the backdrop of an uncertain macroeconomic outlook.

Provident Financial specialises in loans made on the doorstep of less than £500, which agents recollect in weekly instalments. This, the company said, allows them to quickly identify changes in the economic environment and adjust lending decisions accordingly.