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<p>GDYNIA, Poland — Credit unions in Poland are a surprise. Twelve years ago almost no one in the country had heard of a credit union, and if they did it was something a grandparent might have said in a “remember when” discussion. Credit unions virtually disappeared with the communist take over of Poland after World War II. When the regime fell in the early 1990s, credit unions reappeared in a major way. One of many success stories is the Franciszek Stefczyk Credit Union (FSCU) an employee-based credit union for Maritime Enterprises that was formed in 1993. The name comes from a 19th century Polish promoter of the credit union movement. Today FSCU is the largest credit union in Poland. It has 161,000 members with savings of 498,934,143 PLN (US$124,000,000, and loans of 523,586,334 PLN (US$130,000). The Poland currency is called the Zlotych. FSCU’s main office looks out on the Baltic Sea, but it has 100 branches throughout the country, meeting the credit union’s goal of having a branch in all big Polish cities, and some not quite so big. FSCU says it has no plans to expand the number of branches at this time, and they are busy consolidating their gains. Five hundred employees handle the normal savings and loans and credit cards including a special SKOK credit card. SKOK is part of the National Association of Co-operative Savings and Credit Unions (NACSCU), which is the Polish league. They administer the Deposit Protection programs. According to Director Alicja Kuran-Kawka, the growing pains of becoming Poland’s biggest credit union in eight years were often severe. She said, that the credit union had to quickly change managing style from a “small firm method” to a “big company method” and adapt its structure to new conditions, including fluctuating economical conditions in Poland. The country has introduced a free market economy with the normal ups and downs associated with such a major change. FSCU used all the normal marketing tools: advertisements in various media, handbills, as well as advertising at outdoor festivals and picnics. But like any financial, FSCU has to deal with the competition. Kuran-Kawka says that frequently takes the form of mailings from little banks and financial agencies that offer small loans to low-earning people. Looking to the future FSCU is concentrating on product development to maintain the loyalty of the membership that they fought so hard to get. Kuran-Kawka said the credit union will leverage its greatest strength – “We are simply the best!” -</p> <p>[email protected]</p>

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