A wage-advance app owned by the collapsed-lender Greensill Capital and used by NHS nurses during the pandemic has gone into administration.
The Covent Garden-based company, Earnd UK, claimed to serve “thousands of UK employees across several NHS trusts” by allowing users to access their wages before their regular payday if they needed extra cash, similar to schemes run by rivals Wagestream and Hastee.
Earnd, which counted the former head of government procurement Bill Crothers among its directors, offered the service to roughly 10 NHS trusts free of charge but made money by charging private sector employers for the service.
Three of those contracts were negotiated through the central NHS’s corporate services provider, NHS SBS, and counted 450 active users among them, about 2% of their combined workforce.
It is understood that NHS SBS has found an interim provider for wage-advance services, while the three trusts decide on a longer-term alternative.
Lex Greensill struck a deal with the NHS trusts shortly after buying Earnd UK in late 2019, using cash from a fresh $655m (£475m) investment from SoftBank, the conglomerate run by the Japanese billionaire Masayoshi Son.
Earnd UK, formerly known as FreeUp, reported a loss of more than £615,000 in the final six months of 2019, according to its latest accounts.
Like its parent company, Earnd tried to bolster its reputation by hiring Westminster heavyweights on to its advisory board, including Tony Blair’s former home secretary and Labour party peer David Blunkett, and Dame Louise Casey, a former homelessness tsar under Boris Johnson.
Greensill also reportedly dispatched one of its own advisers, the former prime minister David Cameron, to lobby the Australian government to adopt its use, while attending the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, last January. The Mail on Sunday said the offer was rejected because it was deemed too similar to payday lending.
Some critics have claimed that wage-advance schemes can push consumers into cycles of debt and should be regulated similarly to payday lenders. Firms usually deduct the advance and any fees and charges from wages on payday.
Crothers, a former civil servant who ran the UK government’s procurement division before joining Greensill’s board in 2016, was appointed a director at Earnd after Greensill acquired the company. He resigned from the board in February. Hailing Earnd’s business last year, he said it offered “significant benefits to employees” and would “aid their financial wellbeing”.
The Australian branch of Earnd was snapped up by Wagestream last week for an undisclosed sum. However, without a buyer for the remaining part of the business, Earnd UK was put into administration, resulting in job losses for 30 workers.
A spokesman for administrators at Grant Thornton said: “Joint administrators are overseeing an orderly wind-down of the remaining business.
“Regrettably, the circumstances of the administration have meant that the majority (30) of the company’s employees have been made redundant as part of this process, with a small number retained to assist in the administration process for a short period.”