A 100% increase in demand, fueled by California’s job losses and foreclosures, was enough to convince Los Angeles-based ByDesign Financial Solutions to merge with Richmond, Va.-based ClearPoint Counseling Solutions.“The demand for our services in California has gone through the roof, doubling in the last year,” said Martha Lucey, ByDesign president/CEO. Lucey will stay on with ClearPoint as a vice president, running the company’s new Pacific region from ByDesign’s former Los Angeles headquarters.None of ByDesign’s 72 employees will be laid off, she said, as every last employee is needed to help California withstand another wave of foreclosures sweeping through the state. Credit unions are increasingly turning to ByDesign to assist with members who have a credit union second mortgage or home equity line and are facing foreclosure from another lender.“Credit unions know when members need help, and they know they’re probably not going to get it from whoever holds the first lien, so we aid in the negotiation process to help keep the member in their home,” Lucey said.ByDesign counsels more than 300 clients per week for mortgage default counseling, and an additional 350 per week for general credit counseling and family budgeting. In contrast, ClearPoint served more than 4,000 clients per month in 2008. ClearPoint spokesman Bruce McClary said demand is up in his shop, too, keeping his 159 employees hopping in primary markets of Richmond, St. Louis and Seattle. “Both businesses are growing, and everybody has plenty to do,” McClary said of staffing levels.ClearPoint helps make ByDesign a more formidable third party, Lucey said. Primary lienholders are more willing to negotiate with a knowledgeable third party than with borrowers or even the second lienholder, she said.“That’s where a professional counseling can help members through the process, so they receive something workable,” she said.Both firms have built strategic alliances with credit unions. ByDesign is a strategic business partner of the California and Nevada Credit Union Leagues, and according to Sylvia Fath, vice president of business services, and the leagues will continue their relationship with ClearPoint.ClearPoint has counselors on-site at three Virginia credit unions, McClary said, and looks forward to building a stronger alliance with credit unions.“We’re not a sausage factory, processing clients just to get them into the system,” he said. “We establish a connection with clients and stay connected in the communities we serve,”–[email protected]

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