Confessions of a Licensed Moneylender

SINGAPORE – People have labelled him a “licensed loan shark”.

It is a comment made in jest, but it never fails to make licensed moneylender Sean Chia go on the defensive.

“I tell my friends I’m quite sensitive to the word loan shark. I don’t like to be lumped together with them because what they do is illegal,” says the 46-year-old, who collaborates with his brother, the owner of a debt-collection agency.

The bespectacled, kind-looking man looks nothing like an “Ah Long”.

But some of his old acquaintances have dissociated themselves from him since he joined the moneylending industry.

Mr Chia, a former property consultant, set up XXX Credit about three years ago, pumping in a six-figure amount he saved up over the years.

Licensed moneylending came under the spotlight last week, when the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) announced new limits on borrowing.

As licensed moneylenders come under the purview of the Ministry of Law, the new rules do not apply to them, but MAS said in a forum-letter response that they would be working to fix this.

Mr Chia, who ditched his lucrative but stressful job to spend more time with his young children, says the switch was a 180-degree change.

“I used to mingle with bankers, lawyers, developers and tai tais. People for whom money was never a problem. They had too much of it,” he says.