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…Benn says body on course to disburse $700M in loans this year
By Svetlana Marshall
For ten years a member of the Guyana Public Service Cooperative Credit Union had been trying to secure a lone to build her own home on a plot of land she purchased from the Central Housing and Planning Authority. Her experience was a royal runaround.
“She had been using money that she borrowed from the credit union, small amounts to start but there came a time when she couldn’t do any more and she wanted to sell,” Chairman of the credit union Trevor Benn explained during an interview with the Village Voice News.
On the verge of giving up, the woman learnt of the new financial facilities GPSCCU was offering, and decided to apply.
That woman, Benn said, is now closer to achieving her dream home.
“So she is one of many who could not qualify at other commercial banks for loans. Most of the other banks require you to make a down payment on the loan, what you call the equity, and have some money there to show, which we don’t,” Benn said.
Today he said the GPSCCU is aiming to completely process 100 applications for vehicle and residential loans totaling approximately $700M before the end of December 2021.
Benn said, already $300M has been disbursed in secured (vehicle) loans, and another $100M approved for mortgages. He said the response by members of the credit union to the new financial products has been nothing but overwhelming.
It was noted that aside from the 100 applications being processed, there is an additional 550 applications on file to be processed. Benn said due to the high number of applications in the system, the Public Service Credit Union took a decision this past week to put on hold new applications until all existing applications are completely processed.
“It is not possible to complete the 500 [applications] this year, so we have set ourselves a time between December and the end of February to complete and start receiving new applications,” the GPSCCU Chairman said.
Under the new financial facilities, members can borrow up to $5M for secured (car) loans while a ceiling of $15M has been set for mortgages.
Benn said the financial facilities have been transforming the lives of members, many of whom had difficulties accessing loans from the commercial banks.
The car loan product was launched last June under the theme ‘Wait is over’ as part of a range of financial services offered by the credit union. Members of the credit union are accessing the new loan product at a 1 percent interest rate at the reducing balance and zero percent equity.
The requirements, Benn said, are quite simple, explaining that applicants are required to submit quotations for the vehicle of their choice, income statements and contact details. He said while there is no requirement for equity, applicants, through their income statements, must demonstrate the capacity to repay the loan.
That aside, the credit union processes approximately 600 character and guarantor loans at a value of over $186M per month.
Benn said though the credit union has seen a consistent increase in membership since 2018, news of the new loan products has resulted in an even greater expansion in membership since January 2021 of about 2,000.
Benn was elected Chairman of GPSCCU on April 11, 2021 during the credit union’s Annual General Meeting (AGM). His team swept up all the spots available receiving higher votes than their competitors. All members of the team also received higher votes than Benn’s main competitor, President of the GPSU Patrick Yarde who received 143 votes while Benn’s team members received between 467 – 905 votes.
Benn said when the Interim Management Committee (IMC) took over in 2018, the credit union was in poor shape. Annual General Meetings (AGMs) were not consistently held and dividends had not been paid to members.
“The credit union in general was in a bad shape. Most of the members were unhappy…So when we arrived [in 2018] we had to do a lot of work to turn the credit union around,” he said, noting that the work continues today.
It was noted that prior to May 2018, members had no other choice than to wait approximately three weeks to secure non-collateral loans, however, since the change in management, non-collateral loans are approved on the same day the application is filed once the requisite documents are provided by the applicants.
Heading into 2022, GPSCCU, Benn said, is hoping to begin the construction a state-of-the-art facility which will not only house its headquarters but other essential facilities. The land, which is located in the capital city – Georgetown – has already been secured and the building design is being finalised.
“We have a diverse membership, young, old, middle aged, we have people who have various kinds of needs, and we are planning to ensure that in that facility, we can be able to address all of the needs of our members. We would like a situation where when they leave home to come to do business at the credit union, any other business they had to do on that day can be done right there. So the building must be able to accommodate their medical needs, pharmaceutical needs, grocery needs, even day care facility if possible. We want to make it as comprehensive as possible,” he told this newspaper.
In the interim, the Credit Union has adopted the section of the avenue in front of its Hadfield Street location, and is currently in the process of beautifying it.
Benn disclosed that the credit union is seriously considering the establishment of an ATM service to enable members to save more often.
“I think that will help members to save a lot more with us, if they know they have access to their money.”
GPSCCU has already initiated conversations with its local bank as well as its counterparts in Trinidad and Tobago and Jamaica. It also intends to set up a branch office in Region 10, having done so in Region Two.
But the credit union is not without challenges, the GPSCCU Chairman said aside from the need for credit unions in Guyana to be more organised and strategic in their collective approach, the Cooperative Societies Act does not support the modern vision of credit unions.
“For example, we have a number of people who want to become members but we are hamstrung because we are a public service credit union, we cannot accept membership for non-public servants at the moment,” Benn explained.
Nonetheless, he said GPSCCU remains committed to its members. “Our members are our priority. We want to ensure that our members remain our priority,” Benn assured.