Finance company, specialized financial institution that supplies credit for the purchase of consumer goods and services by purchasing the time-sales contracts of merchants or by granting small loans directly to consumers. Specialized consumer finance agencies now operate throughout western Europe, Canada, the United States, Australia, Japan, and some Latin American countries. Although they existed in the early 1900s, their greatest development came after World War II.
Large-sales finance companies, which operate by purchasing unpaid customer accounts at a discount from merchants and collecting payments due from consumers, were a response to the need for installment financing for the purchase of automobiles in the early 1900s. Ally Financial, for example, was established as the General Motors Acceptance Corporation (GMAC) in 1919 to purchase automobile accounts receivable from car dealers who were themselves unable to finance time purchases. Many companies in both Europe and the United States continue to specialize in