Bank to bank transfers are all well and good, but for recipients who live in rural areas where bank branches are few and far between, remittance centers are lifesavers. This week, iRemit pays tribute to some of its cash pick-up partners, among others, by delving into their individual company histories.
With its red, white, and blue color scheme and the distinct half-moon crowning the letter “C” on its signage, Cebuana Lhuillier remittance centers are practically a beacon for people in need of some quick cash.
While it now offers a variety of financial services like bills payment and Pera Padala, it started out as a pawn shop. It all began in 1953, when the enterprising French Consul to the Philippines, Henry Leon Lhuillier, opened his first pawn shop in Cebu. He initially called it “Agencia Cebuana” in honor of his adoptive home.
The then-fledgling company opened up their first branch in Manila sixteen years later, with Lhuillier’s second son Philippe Jones directing its operations on Libertad Street, Pasay. Over the next two decades, the company opened more branches in Metro Manila.
Encouraged by the move’s success, the Lhuillier family expanded more aggressively nationwide in 1987. It was also during this time that the company adopted the trade name “Cebuana Lhuillier,” which it continues to use today.
A little more than a decade later, Philippe Jones Lhuillier was appointed as the Philippine Ambassador to Italy. His son, Jean Henri Lhuillier, succeeded him as Cebuana Lhuillier Pawnshop’s President and Chief Executive Officer in the same year. This marked the beginning of a whole new chapter in both the company and the industry’s history.
For it was Jean Henri who introduced the auxiliary finance services (e.g., remittance pick-up, bills payment, currency exchange, e-loading, and even insurance) that would make Cebuana Lhuillier rise above the average neighborhood pawn shop. The revamped pawn shop also became the first of its kind to offer a membership rewards program for its clients via the 24k card loyalty program in 2010, with over five million (5,000,000) people signing up for it as of 2014.
Today, Cebuana Lhuillier keeps breaking new ground. Three years ago, they introduced a new service called Cebuana Lhuillier on Wheels that sought to reach potential customers living in remote areas. Its mother company, the PJ Lhuillier Group of Companies (PJLGC), has also branched out into other industries like retail, hotel and restaurant management, and real estate through ventures like Le Soleil de Boracay Hotel, Just Jewels, and Networld Capital Ventures, Inc.
Because Jean Henri himself is an avid sports enthusiast (Trivia: He’s married to former gymnast and Taekwondo Olympic Bronze Medalist Bea Lucero), the company also supports a lot of programs that aim to develop the youth through sports like tennis, basketball, and softball.
And just in case you’re wondering how to properly pronounce his French last name, it’s “Lool-yey.” Although judging how he and his family have been so invested in this country, the Filipino pronunciation (“Lul-yehr”) is perhaps equally acceptable, no? (At the very least, people won’t give you a confused look when you ask them where the nearest Cebuana Lhuillier branch is if you pronounce it this way.)