CEBUANA LHUILLIER plans to strengthen and expand its business in the country by offering products and increasing its branches in provinces to bring financial services to the underbanked and unbanked.
“We already have more than 3,000 branches across the archipelago, with 500 branches due to open before the year ends. On top of these branches, we have a network of 25,000 domestic partners nationwide and 1.7 million international partner doors for our money transfers business,” Cebuana Lhuillier Integrated Marketing and Communications Group Head Emirosco “Michael” R. Sena said in an interview with BusinessWorld last week.
“This expansion to more than 3,000 branches is based on market need, targeting areas where immediate cash solutions are needed,” he added.
Mr. Sena said the limited availability of locations, especially in rural areas, remains a challenge in the pawnshop chain’s current network expansion.
He said even as a lot of transactions have shifted online, their clients still want to go to physical branches.
“Our experience in the last three years proved that the ‘next normal’ is not purely online, because the reality is, here in the Philippines, many rural communities are still dependent on the physical branches in doing their transactions,” Mr. Sena said.
“What we’re doing in ensuring that our products and services are easily available through online platforms while also making sure that we have a strong network of physical branches that will complement and complete the online-offline journey in transactions,” he said.
This strategy of using both online and offline platforms or technology and brick-and-mortar stores to deliver its services is called “TechBrick” by Cebuana Lhuillier President and CEO Jean Henri Lhuillier, the company said in a statement on Wednesday.
“Cebuana Lhuillier’s core mission is to break the barriers in finance through effective financial solution offerings. Our TechBrick strategy allows us to make our products and services available on demand, while optimizing our robust network reach in over 3,000 branches in the country,” Mr. Lhuillier said.
The company developed the Cebuana Xpress app for pawning transactions, the Quikz mobile remittance app, and the eCebuana app, which gives customers access to banking services within the Cebuana Lhuillier ecosystem.
It has also made its microinsurance products available online via ProtectNow, a web-based e-commerce platform.
Mr. Sena noted in the interview that the market has become homogenous since the coronavirus pandemic as there is no single brand that captures the market.
“Rather, transactions now flow from one channel to another, from one provider to another,” Mr. Sena said.
EXPANDED PRODUCTSThe official said Cebuana Lhuillier also plans to expand its microinsurance business to add more lifestyle products, including life, health insurance, and pet insurance, among others.
The company is also working on expanded access to purchasing jewelry, pushing for jewelry as a form of micro-investment, Mr. Sena said.
“In essence, what we’re trying to do is open a complete portfolio of products and services that will complement every Filipino’s financial inclusion journey, from loans to microinsurance, from money transfers to saving and even microinvestments (jewelry selling), eventually encouraging each and every one of our kababayans to save and invest for their future,” he added.
He noted that the pawnbroking industry has evolved through the years. Pawnshops such as Cebuana Lhuillier now offer micro financial services such as remittances and bills payment and also serve as cash agents.
“Pawnshops also became financial touch points for the Filipino masses, for small businesses, and even an access point for government amelioration programs. This became more evident during the pandemic where Filipinos flocked to pawnshops for quick access to cash,” Mr. Sena said.
“As the business evolved through the years, what remained consistent was our mission of financial inclusion for every Filipino. It is this mission that serves at the core of the many innovations introduced by Cebuana Lhuillier through the years, as we strive to provide access to essential financial services to the Filipino masses anytime, anywhere,” he added. — Keisha B. Ta-asan