Jean Henri Lhuillier: The Man Behind the Remarkable Success of Cebuana Lhuillier Bank

This 2023, Cebuana Lhuillier Bank reaches a milestone never before seen in the banking and finance industry: reaching 25 years and successfully attaining what it initially set out to do: Impart an affordable banking lifestyle to the masses, the unbanked, and the underbanked.

Since 2018, Cebuana Lhuillier Bank, a rural bank, has been on a phenomenal sustained growth spurt. Despite being greatly constrained by the COVID-19 pandemic, Cebuana LhuillierBank deposits grew from PHP 435 million to PHP 5.94 billion this 2023; its gross customer loans rose to PHP 3.6 billion from PHP 304 million; and it has almost 7.5 million account holders.

This remarkable rise of Cebuana Lhuillier Bank comes from the passion and vision of Jean Henri Lhuillier, Cebuana LhuillierPresident & CEO and Cebuana Lhuillier Bank Vice-Chairman who built the bank from his decades of learnings and experience. Being exposed to the pawnshop business of his father, AgenciaCebuana, as young as 7 years old, Jean Henri Lhuillier began to understand the importance of diversifying a business and establishing new ones that catered to the mass market.

Jean Henri Lhuillier: The President, CEO and Entrepreneur

When Jean Henri decided to help grow the family business, one of the steps he took was to unify the many brands under the company’s wing. Jean Henri led the task of consolidating their more or less 15 pawnshop brands under Cebuana Lhuillier. He then followed this up by building the right organization around it, and as the years progressed, added more products and services with the brand.

Jean Henri Lhuillier’s position as President and CEO of Cebuana Lhuillier only fueled his passion as an entrepreneur even more as he continued to look for ways to broaden and pioneer new products and services that would benefit the Filipino people. This mindset of starting new businesses while steering Cebuana Lhuillier from the top has helped him diversify the industries that form the portfolio of PJ Lhuillier Group of Companies—from insurance, tech, hospitality to restaurants, to name just a few.

Financial Inclusion Goal Gives Rise to Cebuana LhuillierBank

Jean Henri narrates that when Cebuana Lhuillier took the huge leap from being a pawnshop to microinsurance, it was an uncommon thing to do in the industry as their focus was getting the C, D, E market to invest portion of their hard-earned money for insurance. But Jean Henri pressed on knowing that this market size of more than 100 million people is more than just a just a business growth potential but a way for the masses to be financially empowered.

This goal towards financial inclusion has long been in the DNA of Cebuana Lhuillier and has been the driving force behind the establishment of Cebuana Lhuillier Rural Bank in June 1998. As the banking arm of PJ Lhuillier, Inc., the Bank continues to serve the underserved sector through its affordable and accessible banking transactions.

Through the bank’s countless efforts, it was recognized as Rural/Cooperative Bank of the Year for the third consecutive year by Asian Banking & Finance (ABF) Awards. In 2023, it also earned accolades such as Fastest Growing Bank for Financial Inclusion, Most Innovative Microfinance Bank, and Best Microfinance Bank in the Philippines by the World Economic Magazine. With such achievements, CebuanaLhuillier Bank has gained the trust and recognition of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas which cemented their reputation in the local banking industry. 

Jean Henri Lhuillier states: “Financial inclusion has always been at the core of who we are at Cebuana Lhuillier, and this is reflected in the products and services that we offer to the many communities we serve nationwide. The introduction of CebuanaLhuillier Micro Savings highlights the importance of accessibility in order to save money, and we made it possible through the many branches of Cebuana Lhuillier nationwide. This allows many of our kababayans to start saving for their future, no matter how small the amount is.”

Revolutionizing Savings Among the Masses with CL Micro Savings

Before the end of 2018, after months of extensive planning and energetic work, Cebuana Lhuillier Bank owned a revolutionary bank product that would trigger one of the most, if not the most, unexpected and dynamic progressions in the industry for the years to come: Cebuana Lhuillier Micro Savings.

Cebuana Lhuillier Micro Savings is an interest-bearing deposit product with a low initial deposit and no maintaining balance. What made Cebuana Lhuillier Micro Savings a revolutionary banking innovation is that it is a bank product owned by Cebuana Lhuillier Bank and carried by Cebuana LhuillierPawnshop as its cash agent, allowing Cebuana LhuillierPawnshops to accept transactions on behalf of the bank. In effect, Cebuana Lhuillier Bank expanded its service to almost 2,500 Cebuana Lhuillier Pawnshop branches, at that time (now close to 3,500), effectively creating additional access points for banking services.

Aside from the surge of new depositors enticed by CebuanaLhuillier Micro Savings’ advertising and PR campaigns, Cebuana Lhuillier Bank also took advantage of gaining instant marketing access to more or less 10 million Cebuana Lhuillier24k loyalty rewards program members.

To complement Cebuana Lhuillier Micro Savings, the bank launched the eCebuana mobile app in 2020 which allows users to open a Cebuana Lhuillier Micro Savings account online. The app also allows Cebuana Lhuillier Bank clients to easily access their bank account, send money via Instapay and Pera Padala, pay bills, and top up loads. By improving its existing products and services through digital technology initiatives and introducing digital bank product innovations, the bankimprovesaffordability, accessibility, and convenience in banking.

Jean Henri’s Vision for the Unbanked and Underbanked

The phenomenal rise of Cebuana Lhuillier Bank as a force to be reckoned with in the banking industry is profoundly explained and summarized by Jean Henri Lhuillier: “The origins of the bank can be traced to our desire to provide reliable and convenient access to micro financial services that best speak to the needs of every Filipino, especially those with limited access to their financial needs. Our dream is to digitally and financially include Filipinos by implementing world-class and innovative digital financial solutions for them. This, we believe, is what the future of financial inclusion should be – a future where there is financial mobility for every Filipino, a future where we provide them the capability to manage their finances whenever and wherever they may be at any time.”

When asked about his expectations and future plans for CebuanaLhuillier Bank, Jean Henri Lhuillier remarked, “We see the number of Cebuana Lhuillier Bank Micro Savings account holders or “Iponaryos” as we call them hit 8 million by the end of next year. We will continue our extensive Iponaryocampaigns using all available channels, including over 3,000 Cebuana Lhuillier branches nationwide.” And with plans for future expansion and continued innovation, Cebuana LhuillierBank is well on its way to becoming the top financial inclusion enabler for Filipinos under the guidance, leadership and vision of Jean Henri Lhuillier.