Jean-Louis has enriched the original mission of Cresus by setting up a large range of tools to support people to find sustainable solutions to their financial crises. Every year, a network of 600 competent volunteers, including former lawyers, jurists or bankers, complete approximately 55,000 personal follow-ups. These follow-ups range from global diagnosis (personal, professional, and financial situation) to balanced budgets (over debt treatments, optimization of charges, and renegotiation of debts), to access to microcredit, as well as social and psychological support. The results of this educational aspect of his strategy are significant, as all the participants are trained and learn how to manage their budgets.
Due to increased demand, Jean-Louis has also created new strategies to reinforce his organization’s capacity: He continues to carry out the geographic expansion of his activities through a National Federation that already counts 19 regional associations and 117 welcome desks; he has developed online consultations to multiply the number of people that can access Cresus’ expertise (157,000 in 2010), and he has launched a web radio to provide information and advice to 250,000 in debt households.
To reinforce prevention and early detection of bad debt, Jean-Louis also offers trainings and workshops. First, he seeks to increase the number of actors who can prevent financial issues and provide support. He accomplishes this by transferring Cresus’ know-how and expertise to social workers, social landlords, and banks’ employees on legislations, consumer rights, as well as on how to detect the risk of over debt, or deal with debt recovery. Second, Jean-Louis raises awareness on budget and debt management among at-risk populations. He employs smart partnerships with organizations whose clients/beneficiaries have troubles paying the bills (e.g. social landlords and energy providers), do not use social benefits correctly (e.g. mutual groups) or need help on finance to ensure a long-lasting fresh start in life (e.g. social rehabilitation companies). Finally, Jean-Louis provides information and advice to individuals who may encounter financial troubles in the months to come, such as young people finishing their studies and coming to the point of earning their first revenues; or older people dealing with a small pension who often fall prey to over eager credit salesmen. In 2009 alone, more than 13,500 hours of training and information have been shared with these groups, generating great social impact as well as revenues for Cresus.
More recently, Jean-Louis has succeeded in creating a model that engages banks and finance companies in the prevention of excessive debt. In 2009, thanks to close links with the French Association of Finance Companies, he had the opportunity to present his concept in front of all the main banks and successfully convinced one to co-build the first experimental platform on excessive debt prevention. Launched in September 2010, the pilot has rapidly influenced the sector and seven partners are now part of the initiative. This platform allows the banks and Cresus to work together on excessive debt prevention. Through an extranet site, they both ensure the follow-up of clients in difficulty: Banks have the responsibility to detect clients with financial troubles early on and send their cases on the platform at the first “symptoms” (i.e. debiting payments refused or excessive overdraft). Under confidentiality clauses, a project team at Cresus will then diagnose personal and financial issues, freeze outstanding debts so that the situation does not get worse, and work on restructuring the debt. The role of Cresus has been particularly efficient: 80 percent of the main finance companies have accepted to be partners, and thus accept to spread debt payments over time and modify the nature of the credit.
The first evaluation shows the impact of this unique initiative with banks: In over 300 households that were part of the pilot, more than 70 percent are on the proper track to achieve a stable and balanced financial situation; 42 percent have modified their contracts to balance their budgets, and 100 percent of those who needed a rearrangement of their debts by creditors have obtained it. For the first partner, the Postal Bank, the initiative has successfully led to the recovery of €400,000 (US$521,260) overdue payments. In 2011, eight new partners joined the platform and Jean-Louis expects to support 100,000 people through it in 2012. As a unique initiative all over the globe, and even if Credit Bureaus exist elsewhere, excessive debt needs to be prevented and Jean-Louis is ambitious to spread his model in Europe.
The evaluation has also indicated that 72 percent of the people managed through the platform are multi-holders of credits. This fact reinforces Jean-Louis’ idea that a national register of debts has to be created to allow banks and finance companies to see if a person has outstanding credit before providing more. Through active participation on the committee to submit the dedicated law, Jean-Louis hopes the partnering banks will eventually support the project. Unfortunately, during Parliament’s vote in July 2011, the law passed, but it does not apply and he continues to lobby.