Good Deed of the Day: A Parisian Bank Pays It Forward

One of the world's oldest micro-lenders cancels the debt of 3,500 clients

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Wikimedia Commons

A Parisian bank paid it forward - quite literally - by canceling the debt of 3,500 of its clients this weekend. Credit Municipal de Paris (also known as the bank of the poor) gave clients with a debt of 150 euros or less a clean slate.

Credit Municipal has long a history of helping the less fortunate. For centuries, it has allowed the needy to get loans against their valuables, making it one of the world's first micro-lenders. According to GOOD, the move is a way for the bank to celebrate its 375th anniversary.

One woman told  reporter Isabelle Roughol:

"I'm very happy, it's the first time I get something for nothing," said Geneviève, an elegant woman in her fifties who was at the bank to get back a gold coin and a small wedding band she had pawned three years ago. "There came a point when I needed money. They're not worth much but they're important to me."

The bank was founded in 1637 by philanthropist Théophraste Renaudot. He aimed to combat poverty by providing access to fair banking. Again, according to GOOD:

The good doctor's idea was to give the poor people of Paris loans they could reasonably hope to repay, at decent rates for the time (about 10 percent annually) against whatever collateral they could produce: pots and pans, linens, silverware, artisans' tools. Halay found evidence of a 19th-century woman so destitute her only possession was her mattress. Every morning, she would carry it to the bank and pawn it. With that money, she'd buy potatoes, sell them for a profit during the day and buy back her mattress at night.

See the full story of the role this bank played in Parisian history here.

About the Author

  • Amanda Erickson is a former senior associate editor at CityLab.