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SGX Bull Charge: constantly evolving

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The exchange will continue to ensure that the flagship Bull Charge run remains relevant. This year it will have an after-party. The event already has over 6,000 sign-ups.

Singapore

THE Singapore Exchange Bull Charge is an annual fixture on the local corporate calendar. Like the corporate scene here - and the bourse itself - the charity event has grown and changed over the 13 years since it was first set up.

But in finding its current formula for success, the ingredients of accountability and relevance were important, said SGX executive vice-president and head of equities and fixed income Chew Sutat.

In 2004, when the event was first created as a fun run, the concept of corporate social responsibility (CSR) among corporates and the financial community was still nascent.

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"Most people didn't pay attention to it and they certainly didn't have their own programmes," he said. As SGX brainstormed for what it could do, it decided to create a platform where others could join to give back to society - in keeping with its role as a market infrastructure platform.

"The Bull Charge is envisaged as a platform where, just like we run a marketplace, it creates opportunities for investors, companies etc . . . who may not have the energy and interest to do something on their own to leverage the overall platform."

At that time, such runs were also a rare sight. "Then we didn't really have a run every month or every week . . . So the two and two came together quite nicely.''

By 2010, however, participation had dropped, and the exchange struggled to raise more than S$1.5 million, compared to the S$3 million it raised in the initial years.

Most companies were starting their own CSR programmes, and even their own foundations. Marathons also became ubiquitous. "Today everybody is running all over the place," Mr Chew noted wryly.

The event had to be refreshed. The fun run was turned into a serious one, with a 3km category for chief executives and 5km category for others.

With more foreign companies listing on the exchange, SGX turned to them, and was "pleasantly surprised" by their response. Many international firms had been looking to give back after tapping the capital markets here, but did not know how, said Mr Chew, who took over the event in 2011.

SGX also changed the way that the funds were channelled to charities. Where previously the money was spread out among six to eight charities, and went towards their general expenditure, it decided to focus on a smaller group of three to four charities which it would commit to for three years.

The commitment was important for charities because they could then start a programme, said Mr Chew. This also had the positive effect of allowing sponsors to see clearly the impact of their funds.

For instance, Awwa, one of the charities the SGX supports which works with children with special needs and disabilities, had been able to buy seven school buses in 2014 as a result of the funds raised.

Starting last year, the exchange also started to organise monthly activities with the beneficiaries for their staff to participate in, known as SGX Bull Charge Cares. This was possible because of the three-year commitment, which allows SGX to have a deeper understanding of what the beneficiaries may need, said Mr Chew.

"Cheques are always good but what real value and meaning do both parties get out of it? When we do the Bull Charge Cares, it builds interaction and meaning and it builds the impact." The exchange also worked to decentralise the fundraising effort. Every event and activity that its staff would be organising - whether golf tournaments or futsal events - was turned into an opportunity for doing good.

The Bull Run therefore represents the culmination of a series of activities that SGX organises throughout the year as fundraisers, said Mr Chew. And more staff have been able to join in the fund raising.

On the whole, the CSR work in SGX today is a more balanced, healthier mix, he said. "Rome was not built in a day. We've had to learn, adjust to different market cycles."

What hasn't changed is the exchange's CSR mandate in building financial literacy, though it interprets this in a very broad sense. Current beneficiaries that it supports are Awwa Ltd, Fei Yue Community Services, Autism Association, Community Chest and Shared Services for Charities.

Community Chest, the fund-raising and engagement arm of the National Council of Social Service, screens the proposals that the exchange receives, and also helps with monitoring and reporting of the programmes supported by the funds.

The exchange, which raised S$2.6 million last year, will also continue to ensure that the flagship Bull Charge run remains relevant. This year, it will have an after-party, including a silent disco party. The event, which takes place on Nov 17 this year, already has over 6,000 sign-ups.

  • This article is part of a series highlighting inspiring companies who are catalysts of change in corporate giving. The Business Times supports NVPC's Company of Good programme as a media partner. For more information, go to www.companyofgood.sg
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