PIOUS BANKS, THAT IS, CREDIT CASH SAVING UNIONS
Fr. Inf. Ireneusz Skubiś talks with Grzegorz Bierecki – the chairman of the National Cooperative Cash Saving and Credit Unions
Fr. IRENEUSZ SKUBIŚ: - First of all, I congratulate you, the chairman, on the polish Cooperative Saving Unions on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of their existence. What is the mystery of their success based on, in the opinion of their founder?
GRZEGORZ BIERECKI: - The secret of the success is the fact that Poles were able to gather, organise themselves which resulted in creating the biggest social movement in Poland after the year 1989.
Credit Unions have been serving from the beginning of their activity and will always serve to the improvement of life conditions and rescuing their members in difficult situations. Referring to the pre-war tradition of Stefczyk’s Credit Unions, Polish Credit Unions are actively fighting against poverty, usury and are acting against financial exclusion which results in social exclusion. All these attempts are extremely important, especially in the times of crisis which is present in Europe and we are going to feel its consequences in our country more and more. Credit Unions in Poland as the only financial institution, responded to the appeal of the European Union and engaged in the actions aiming at fighting against the phenomenon of exclusion. Polish Credit Unions care not only about cheap and good productive, but they are also pursuing many educational activities which teach Poles utilize domestic budget wisely and sensibly and save money.
– Cooperative Saving and Credit Unions have gained many members, became an institution very popular in Poland. What can the members of Credit Unions expect from them?
– Our members-co-owners, because the Credit Unions differ from commercial institutions in it, can always expect from us a cheaper and reasonably adjusted offer, literally for every pocket. It does not concern only saving and settlement calculations, but also many other services such as: investment products, insurances or many tourist offers.
– Our aim is to realize the needs of the members who expect just such services adjusted to their possibilities. It is worth adding that Credit Unions are a Polish financial institution and are not threatened by any consequences with which other commercial financial institutions are dealing and which have their cause for example in trans-foreign financial flows.
– On 15-19 July this year in Gdansk the World Conference of Credit Unions was held, to which Polish Credit Unions belong. In the speeches of world leaders it was clearly seen that many representatives among 53 countries participating in the Congress wanted to learn about the cooperative activity from Poles. How can polish Credit Unions make their friends from other countries be interested in them?
– I am extremely proud that during the World Conference of Credit Unions, friends from many countries were congratulating us on a great success, which was undoubtedly the development of the Credit Unions throughout 20 years. Today Credit Unions from such countries as: Moldavia, Ukraine, Lithuania, Romania but also from the developed regions, like America are using our solutions.
It is worth reminding that when we were starting the activity 20 years ago, our friends from the USA helped us a lot. Today they say that what we managed to achieve during these 20 years, had taken them nearly the whole century. It is another reason for pride because now the Americans can take an example of us, use our solutions and implement them in their countries. During the World Conference of Credit Unions in Gdansk, the representatives of Credit Unions from the countries of Middle-Eastern Europe and Mexico asked us for organisational support and essential help, which undoubtedly proves the high degree of the development of our Credit Unions.
– We know that Credit Unions undertake various actions which support people in their difficult situations. Are the leaders of Credit Unions planning any new solutions, for example for the victims of whirlwinds which have been coming to Poland recently? People cannot afford an expensive insurance of households, so what is a solution for this situation?
– In these cases we always help in two ways. The first is a possibility to give a loan or credit which is cheaper than this kind of products available in the market in various financial institutions. And the other way is connected with a possibility of prolonging credit instalments from the moment of removing the results of the tragedy by our members and their families. We have already dealt with such situations among the others during a flood of the century which touched many areas of Poland in 1997. Facing such a big tragedy, we started many assisting programs in Credit Unions which would allow people to rebuild their lost possessions.
However, it concerns not only natural disasters. In the same year 1997, when the Shipyard in Gdynia went bankrupt, and its workers were deprived of any life means, we were not standing with folded arms and doing nothing. We started a special offer for everybody harmed who, thanks to Credit Unions could live a good life, and survive difficult moments for them and their relatives. These are the examples of the realisation of our mission.
We have also set up a fund of the development of mutual insurances recently – small Associations of Mutual Insurances. They are functioning similarly as the Credit Saving Unions – not earning and can be helpful. Next year we will start developing the small Associations of Mutual Insurances.
– Does any common denominator exist which connects the actions of Cooperative unions members of the whole world? Could, for example the idea of solidarity be it? In the speech given during the opening of the World Conference of Credit Unions I was speaking about the principle of solidarity between credit saving unions and the credit cash saving unions with their members and it seems that people can learn about it from us…
– The idea of solidarity is somehow inscribed in the development of Credit Unions. We can say that polish Credit Unions derive from the idea of a great social movement which happened in the turn of the 80s and 90s of the last century. These are our natural roots. Moreover, the differences in functioning of Credit Unions and banks are important, which was emphasized during the conference in Gdańsk. All Credit Unions in the world are characterised with the fact that their members are also their co-owners and the elaborated benefit does not get to a pocket of private investors but is given back to the members in the form of an attractive offer which simultaneously influences the development of Credit Unions. Credit Unions have always been an alternative for bank offers, especially for people of low and average incomes. We are often called pious banks in which the offer meets the needs of our members. And it is difficult not to agree with this comparison.