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Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honourable, to be compassionate, to have it make some differences that you have lived and lived well”.

 

The co-operative model has always focused on putting people first rather than maximising profit. Members of a co-operative believe in promoting ethical values such as honesty, openness, social responsibility and caring for others to make a difference in the community that they live in.  

 

It is precisely because of this need to better the lives of others that Singapore’s first hairdressing co-operative, Helmet and The Penguin (HATP), is formed. 

 

HATP Co-opMs Delia Yang and Mr Ritz Tng are professional hairstylists by training and have a hair salon, Salon Social.  They were looking for a business model that can do well and do good at the same time.

 

After several meetings with SNCF to have a better understanding of the co-operative model, Delia and Ritz feel that the co-operative model of promoting the values of self-help and care for community align with their vision of doing well and doing good.

 

On 17 February 2020, HATP was registered with a social mission to provide highly affordable haircuts by professional hairstylists to senior citizens at nursing homes, saving them the hassle of travelling to the hair salon. HATP also aims to provide vocational training and employment opportunities to single mothers, disadvantaged youths, people with disabilities as well as ex-offenders. 

 

For the next three years, HATP will adopt a pop-up store format, enabling the co-operative to move to any location at any time. This is to make it more convenient to customers. 

 

On behalf of Singapore Co-operative Movement, Singapore National Co-operative Federation welcomes HATP to the co-operative community and looks forward to HATP joining the co-operatives to do good and do well for the community.

 

HATP Co-operative

 

Know Our Co-ops series

Co-operatives have been an integral part of shaping Singapore, touching the lives of more than 1.4 million members. Co-operatives were birthed out of shared needs, responsibility and commitment to each other and to the society, and were amongst the earliest community self-help organisations to take root in Singapore.

The Know Our Co-ops series aims to let our affiliates to get to know each other better; appreciate each other's good work; and encourage conversations which can lead to collaborations. After all, we are in the same business to make a difference.

 

First Co-operative in Singapore - SGS Co-op

 

SGS Credit Co-opNinety-five years ago, 32 government officers set up the Singapore Government Servants’ Co-operative Thrift and Loan Society (now the Singapore Government Staff Credit Co-operative Society - SGS Co-op) with the objective of “preventing permanent indebtedness” among its members.  SGS Co-op has the distinction of being the first co-operative to be registered in Singapore on 7 October 1925, helping members to better manage their income and expenditure.

 

Back in those days, it was difficult for an average worker to obtain cash when he needed it desperately. Those who resorted to borrowing from money-lenders were burdened by exorbitant interest rates, and by the obtrusive presence of their creditors at their places of work. And so, the establishment of a credit co-operative such as Singapore Government Servants’ Co-operative Thrift and Loan Society was truly a novel and noble idea of relieving the financial woes of civil service workers.

 

SGS Co-op offers safe banking and affordable loans to employees in the civil service, statutory boards and government-owned companies. It reached out to workers such as the late Mr Han Juam Kwong, who was a member for 61 years (from 1954 to 2015). Mr Han recounted seeing how important the co-op was in situations when his colleagues needed money but could not secure loans from banks. Thanks to the loans from the co-operative, his colleagues were able to keep a roof over their heads and pay for their children’s needs. On a personal level, Mr Han took a loan of $3,000 in 1972 to pay for his wedding dinner and his bride’s trousseau. He recalled:

 

“I remembered using the money to purchase the traditional wedding set of five types of gold jewellery: a ring, bracelet, chain, earrings and a bangle. I also had to buy a lot of oranges, a suckling pig and two bottles of brandy for my wedding banquet.”

 

SGS Credit Co-op

Photo courtesy: Ced Han

 

Today, SGS Co-op has more than 7,000 members and continues to champion the values of co-operation and self-help, encouraging thrift and providing loans to its members at affordable rates.

 

With over nine decades of experience in the no frills, straightforward safe and sustainable banking business, SGS Co-op provides the necessary facilities for its members to save for a better future.

 

 SGS Credit Co-op

 Photo courtesy: SGS Co-op

 

It stays updated on the current interest rates that banks /financial institutions give, and leverages on economies of scale so that SGS Co-op is able to negotiate better returns for its members. 

 

SGS Co-op offers members ways to save that allow the flexibility to withdraw when the need arises such as subscription saving, specific deposit saving, and fixed/time deposit; or financial plans that enable members with reserves to invest for higher interests.

 

The co-operative also helps members who are in financial need by granting loans for purposes such as education, renovation and medical, which can help to relieve the financial burden of wage earners whose salary is their only source of income.  Loans are made on reasonable terms with lower interest rates (compared to most financial institutions), as well as flexible repayment period of up to 48 months to facilitate better cash flow management.

 SGS Credit Co-op

 Photo courtesy: SGS Co-op

 

 

As a dependable financial support to its members, surpluses of the co-operative are ploughed back to the members with value-added benefits. SGS Co-op members get to enjoy dividends, hospitalisation benefits, educational awards/bursaries, recruitment incentives, loyalty benefits, and subsidies for tours, annual dinner and dance.

 

With its vision to be a caring and reliable credit co-operative, its mission to encourage thrift and help members to save for a bright future is as strong today as it was 95 years ago and for many good years ahead. First co-operative, first to save.

 

  SGS Credit Co-opSGS Credit Co-op   Photo courtesy: SGS Co-op

One of the members of the Singapore Police Co-operative (Police Co-op) shares his story of how his co-op had helped him weather his financial difficulties by providing an affordable financial solution.

 

Credit Co-operatives

 

Family Composition

Sam joined the Singapore Police Force (SPF) in 2010 and has been a member of Police Co-op since. He is presently living with his spouse in their own flat for a period of almost 2 years.

 

Sam stays close to his parents’ home. He has an elder brother who is staying with his parents.

 

Why Sole Breadwinner

Sam’s father used to work as a taxi driver but is currently unemployed due to his poor eyesight. His father was asked to quit his job because he was involved in several car accidents.

 

His mother is a housewife. She is physically unfit to work due to her health conditions which require long term medications. Sam’s spouse is also a housewife who helps to take care of his parents as they cannot afford to hire a domestic helper.

 

Sam’s elder brother is unemployed, resulting in Sam solely shouldering all the financial burdens of the family.

 

Being the sole breadwinner of the family, Sam is financially supporting his spouse, his parents and his elder brother.

 

Liabilities Snowballed

Sam’s father tried to lessen the financial burdens of the family by looking for other jobs. However, he was either retrenched or replaced within a short period of time after employment. Till now, he is still searching for a job to earn an income but to no avail. With no income, and faced with medical bills and other domestic expenses, his parents’ mortgage loan snowballed to an outstanding amount of $10,000.

 

In order to help ease the financial issues of his family, Sam applied for a credit card to try to pay off the existing bills and debts incurred by his family. He did this by withdrawing cash advances from the card. As time passed, he realised that he was unable to withdraw any further cash from the ATM using the said credit card.

 

 Credit Co-operatives

 

Licensed Money Lender

As his liabilities started to increase, Sam realised that his monthly salary was not enough to meet the needs and expenses of his family. At his wit’s end, he turned to a licensed money lender and took up a loan of $15,000 with a monthly instalment plan of 6 months. Subsequently, he was unable to meet his monthly repayments.

 

Declared Financial Embarrassment

Knowing that his outstanding liabilities exceeded 3 times his monthly gross salary as he struggled to make ends meet for his family, Sam declared his financial embarrassment status to his superior.

 

Getting Superior’s Support

Upon understanding his situation, his superior referred him to Police Co-op for a loan to clear off his debts.

 

As Sam’s case was a complex one, a Commander’s Letter of Support was required to support his loan application. Sam met his Commander who agreed to support his loan application.

 

Sam’s loan was approved with the necessary supporting documents. The loan to him was structured to ensure that he had the means to pay. With the loan, he managed to clear his liabilities.

 

Resolution to Seek Solution to Financial Liabilities

Sam shared that if he had not approached Police Co-op for a financial solution, he might have lost his job. He would have broken down emotionally. With the financial assistance Police Co-op provided, he could focus better at work and look after his family better too. He also resolved to help his elder brother seek employment, so that he could help ease the tremendous pressures on the family’s finances.

 

Singapore Police Co-op

 

 

*Based on a true story. Name of the officer has been changed to protect his identity.

 


 

This article was first published in the Police Co-operator newsletter (April – September 2019). For more information, please visit https://policecoop.org.sg/publications/.

 

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Singapore National Co-operative Federation
510 Thomson Road #12-02
SLF Building, Singapore 298135
Email:
Tel (65) 6602 0747.

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