Cebuana Lhuillier is in the Guinness World Record as the largest chain of pawnshops in the world with close to 2000 outlets, bigger than many banks combined, serving mostly – the ordinary “unbanked” population. It’s president, Jean Henri Lhuillier shares his thoughts about innovation.
Q1: How do you go about understanding your target consumers and what have you discovered about them?
A: We know a lot about our clients, and the market we serve. We talk to our clients in so many ways, in our branches, thru our Customer Care hotline and in our digital platform. On top of this, we engage on a national scale UAI study complimented with other several consumer researches thru FGD etc.
Our frontline people are there where the actions are, we have an open feedback system. It’s important to receive constant feedback, they all have direct access via a dedicated email address & contact numbers to me . I also believe in seeking direct information from my managers via the ceo lunches held wherein I would get to meet with the staff underneath managers who directly report to me.
Our market has changed significantly. They have become more educated about services and products they avail. They have become more discerning and perceptive, ever more conscious of value for money, customer service and quality.
Q2: From pawnshops, you also have remittance, bills payment, collection, e-loading and insurance. In fact, you have tie-ups with close to 100 other companies. Which of these products are you most excited about? Which represent the future of Cebuana Lhuillier?
A: Cebuana Lhuillier believes in empowering the masses thru financial inclusion. Each product we come up with ensures more access for our clients to gain financial access and security.
We are excited in every product we bring to the market. We have the full application of the “sachet” concept to make it within the reach of our market. From Microlending/loans to remittance to micro insurance, all of which are part of our community empowerment vision.
Remittances are a focus right now as influx of remittances is growing steadily , we are anchoring our network to this faces of financial service . But what really exites me is our micro insurance business , giving this access to our population has been fulfilling. And with the addition of a micro life policy this year , we will be able to educate and offer this new line to the c,d,e markets.
Cebuana Lhuillier will be in the forefront of the micro financial industry having the complete portfolio of products and services that not only help but improve the lives of our clients and the communities we are in.
Q3: You are pioneering in micro insurance with over a million policies sold monthly. In 2012, you launched ‘Barangay Cebuana’ where your branch personnel visited 750 barangays resulting to over 300,000 policies but partly cannibalized the store sales. What changes are you instituting to gain big wins on both fronts?
A: For micro insurance, out-of-branch efforts were meant to educate communities about the value of insurance. And the true measure of the success of such info dissemination campaign was the number of people who availed of it, and we were successful in doing that.
Out-of-branch activities may have slightly cannibalized our branch sales but all succeeding transactions/renewal are directed to branches located within the community. So in the bigger picture, we are actually reaching and insuring more Filipinos coming from both fronts combined.
Bottom line, in business you can’t wait for your clientele, you need to reach out physically , and electronically. This is our strategy to provide more customer touch points thus access to is not limited to our brick and mortar branches.
Q4: One of your core values is innovation. What innovation are you proudest of so far?
A: Cebuana Lhuillier is a game changer, we have changed the face of pawning, remittance and micro insurance. We don’t walk around telling our market of our capabilities, they tell us what they need and we develop the capabilities to serve them even better.
Our innovation is born out of our move in creating a culture of appreciating our clients , making sure that the clients who are the ” unbanked ” be treated even better than those who are ” banked. ”
We are the 1st to introduce a loyalty program in the micro financial industry. This program enabled us to understand our clients even more. And that simple understanding made our loyalty program achieved the highest availment/ membership, frequency and recency in ourtransaction records.
Q5: What other programs or products can you also claim as the industry’s first?
A: Loyalty program, micro insurance, bills payment in the pawnshops, customer convenience programs (renew anywhere, send / receive anywhere), digital platform for transaction updates, deposit links to bank accounts, network remittance, collection services, Cebuana Lhuillier On Wheels, insured pawn items , web promos , social media based promotions etc
Q6: You now have over 5 million members of your 24k rewards program. Other than your existing products, what can you do to leverage on your power to radically help improve the life of your cardholders?
A: We know every cardholder we have. Our in-market strategy for new products and services are normally intended towards them based on their behaviour, financial transactions and general profile. For example, our upcoming non-collateralized micro loans for entrepreneurial purposes are geared towards targeting our international remittance members who are either already on a small scale business who wants to expand or planning to put up one. . . We take our 24k members to heart.
Q7: Cebuana Lhuillier launched the annual Happiest Pinoy contest with over 10,000 nominees yearly and the annual My Happiness photo contest. What was the insight behind these contests? What are you trying to accomplish?
A: The search for the Happiest Pinoy is actually an advocacy of our micro insurance brand with a long-term objective to become a full brand campaign for the entire Cebuana Lhuillier eco system of brands. Traditionally, insurance were introduced to the market almost like a scare campaign. We wanted to do it differently by anchoring on happiness which we Filipinos are known for. It links to the very culture of our people thus the instant connection it has to our market. This campaign will not just improve our relationship with our market but also lift the stigma of the old pawnshop concept. Our brand don’t simply gives financial access . . . we bring financial solutions/ literacy, security, bridge to a brighter future not just to individuals but more importantly families and communities, thus happiness. Who doesn’t want to be happy? We want to have happy clients, happy employees and happy shareholders.
We started conservatively with this campaign gaining about a few hundreds of nominees in our initial run, then to more than 10,000 in the next run. Currently, still in the middle of our 3rd run, we have already received more than 100,000 nominations.
Bestselling author Josiah Go is the Chairman and Chief Marketing Strategist of Mansmith and Fielders, Inc. (the leading marketing and sales training company in the Philippines), President and CEO of Waters Philippines (the market leader in the direct selling of premium health durable products in the Philippines) and President and CEO of PT Noah Health Indonesia. He is Chairman / Vice Chairman / Director of over a dozen companies.