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Championing the mutualist approach to a global crisis


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Interview with: Pierre-Edouard Batard, General Manager, Crédit Mutuel


July 6, 2021

Underpinned by the dedication of its 83,200 employees and 22,000 elected members, Crédit Mutuel demonstrated exceptional commitment in 2020. The group implemented concrete responses throughout France to help its customers navigate their way through the crisis.

All of its 5,433 local banks and branches remained open for the duration and throughout 2020, the group granted over €20bn in government-guaranteed loans to more than 137,000 businesses. These loans were decisive in helping to keep employment stable and the economy afloat. Alongside these measures, deferrals were allowed on 1.8 million loan repayments totalling €3.6bn to help self-employed professionals and individuals get through the worst of the health crisis.

Businesses also benefited from exceptional support measures, representing over €200m on the part of insurance companies and the regional federations ramped up local initiatives. World Finance was given the opportunity to delve into the strategy behind Crédit Mutuel’s success in the face of the global health crisis.

 

Looking at your 2020 results in comparison with those of your competitors, the group has doubled its net additions to provisions for loan losses. Why such prudence?
This was a lucid and responsible decision to take action now to anticipate the risk of future defaults. We have made prudent provisions to give our networks the means to continue supporting our customers.

 

During this crisis, Crédit Mutuel was praised for the prime de relance mutualiste (compensation for loss of earnings). Do you intend to continue this initiative?
In response to the urgency of the situation caused by the pandemic, the Crédit Mutuel Group demonstrated its solidarity and commitment to self-employed professionals and SMEs with this immediate flat-rate assistance. The aim was to get help to them quickly to enable them to remain in business. With this unique initiative, the group did not hesitate to push back the boundaries. And we will continue to do so. Being a pioneer and adapting to the current situation is part of our mutualist DNA.

 

This crisis has clearly changed attitudes and has, in particular, increased awareness of the environmental and climate emergency. How has the group revised its strategy to give these matters a higher profile?
Even before the pandemic struck in 2020, the Crédit Mutuel Group was helping to confront the challenges and transformations ahead, chief of which is the environmental and climate emergency. In recent months, it has forged ahead with its climate policy, praised by NGOs, by asserting new ambitions, such as its definitive exit from coal by 2030.

Crédit Mutuel hopes to pave the way for the future by enabling the younger generation

All of our networks stepped up environmental initiatives to help transform our economy and build a path towards achieving the goals of the Paris Agreement. In 2020, the group also worked on structuring a nationwide governance policy and consolidated roadmap around the management of climate risk and CSR.

 

This is proof of Crédit Mutuel’s commitment to achieving financial, societal, regional and environmental objectives as part of this approach. It was this commitment that the vast majority of the group’s networks and subsidiaries decided to formalise in 2020 by adopting a raison d’être, while some adopted the status of a mission-driven company. This is a strong symbol of their mutualist values, and the sole purpose that drives Crédit Mutuel’s operations.

 

What importance do you give to technological innovation when implementing your business model?
Our group has always been a leader in the field of technological innovation. However, here at Crédit Mutuel we stress the importance of using technology for the benefit of all. Remote banking, innovative payment solutions, telephone services, remote surveillance, paperless systems, electronic signatures, cognitive technology and data science: we select innovations that bring added value to our members and customers, by ensuring that we support and help them to embrace change and take these new tools on board.

These services are rolled out in support of the physical network, to foster closer business relationships for the benefit of our members and customers. They enable us to anticipate, innovate and be highly responsive – a mark of the high quality of customer service and relationship management provided by the Crédit Mutuel Group, so that we continue to be a leading customer-focused bank in a digital world.

 

This crisis has been particularly hard for young people. Have you provided solutions specific to their situation?
At this unique time, the common interest remains central to our objectives. Faithful to its founding values of local proximity, solidarity and social responsibility, Crédit Mutuel hopes to pave the way for the future by enabling the younger generation. As a responsible employer, Crédit Mutuel helps young people into work. A large number of its regional federations are therefore heavily involved in work-linked training.

Thus, after initially promoting the two-year Master’s programme in 2019, Crédit Mutuel Midi Atlantique continued its commitment to work-linked training in partnership with the ESB (École Supérieure de la Banque) and TSM (Toulouse School of Management). With 94 young people employed under work-linked training programmes (140 over two years), Crédit Mutuel d’Île-de-France is also showing its commitment to supporting employment and social inclusion for young people from deprived areas.
For its student and apprentice members hard hit by the crisis, Crédit Mutuel implemented immediate concrete measures, such as the payment of mutual assistance (aide mutualiste) of €150 and a six-month extension of the grace period, free of charge, for those who were due to start repaying their student loans. Most of the federations have continued their policy of offering internships to students by increasing the number of offers.

Irrespective of the crisis, the group is a leading supporter of associations throughout France, and is involved on an ongoing basis with young people via these structures, which promote their participation in sporting and cultural activities and promising citizen project initiatives.

 

More generally, in what way is the mutualist approach an appropriate response to the challenges ahead?
The 2020 crisis has demonstrated the strength and relevance of the mutualist model. We have experienced mutualist values in action. Through proximity, with a structure rooted in local economies, focused on development and that of the economic players. Through the group’s solidity, which gives it the means to act in support of a project that reconciles the economy, social issues and the environment. Through solidarity, by providing a response to the crisis for everyone throughout the regions. And also through its independence, because, as it does not have shareholders, the group has only its customers to satisfy and therefore has greater freedom of action. However, over and above the turmoil it has caused, the pandemic has also offered the vision of a society that is united and fraternal. Through its day-to-day actions, the Crédit Mutuel Group intends to carry on showing that it has heard the message by continuing its commitments and action for the common good.

In tune with the times and the needs of a changing society, Crédit Mutuel’s cooperative and mutualist model provides support for the transformation in progress. It will constitute one of the responses to the recovery through the support it gives its customers and members throughout France.

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