Finance Celebrity Forms Counseling, Referral Firm
Berry, Kate, American Banker
Jennifer Openshaw, who founded the online brokerage Women's Financial Network and sold it to Siebert Financial Corp. in 2000, has started a for-profit counseling and referral service to help borrowers get out of debt.
Ms. Openshaw, the author of two personal finance books and a frequent television guest, said she wants to work with lenders to help troubled borrowers manage their money and avoid the extreme options of credit counseling - which appears on a borrower's credit report - and a bankruptcy filing.
"Most Americans who are in debt really don't know where to turn," she said in an interview Wednesday. "I wanted to come up with a process that gave unbiased advice to someone in debt, so they can find their most viable options."
The Los Angeles venture, DACA Inc., opened Oct. 22 and is using the Debt and Credit Advisors brand. It has a Web site and a toll-free number people can call to speak with a financial adviser, who collects basic financial information and determines a plan for debt reduction. In addition to references for counseling, bankruptcy, debt consolidation, and debt settlement, the venture offers a do-it-yourself plan for managing debt and spending with coaching from a company adviser.
Though referrals are free for consumers, DACA charges $9.99 a month for the do-it-yourself plan. It also collects referral fees from credit counseling agencies. However, Ms. Openshaw said many borrowers "are not suited for credit counseling," because they can rein in their spending themselves without a further blemish on their credit report.
The start-up has 40 employees and plans to add a second call center if demand increases, she said.
Before Ms. Openshaw became a celebrity commentator, she worked as a senior vice president of marketing at Bank One Corp. (now a part of JPMorgan Chase & Co.) and as a vice president at Bank of America Corp. She said she plans to use her industry contacts to persuade lenders and card companies to refer troubled borrowers to her venture. …