WARSAW, Poland (9/22/08)--Joe Bergeron, president of the Association of Vermont Credit Unions, was blogging last week as a participant in a World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU) engagement program that met in Poland to study the country's cooperatives. Poland has one of the world's fastest-growing, most successful credit union systems.
On Thursday, the delegation met and talked with various government officials in Warsaw--Poland’s capital, Bergeron wrote in his daily blog at Vermontcu.glogspost.com. “Following security checks and entry past armed ceremonial guards, we briefly toured the main area of the [Presidential] Palace and visited with the President’s Chief of Staff and Under Secretary,” Bergeron wrote. “Our discussions tried to compliment the great benefits credit unions provide Polish people and encourage support for favorable laws for them by government.” On Wednesday, the delegation visited a typical storefront branch of Skok Stefczyk Gdansk. “It’s not unlike a five-to-six staff-member branch of a U.S. credit union, with an ATM machine,” Bergeron blogged. “We did learn that because mass transportation is so prevalent in Europe, drive-up tellers and ATMs are extremely rare.” The delegation’s members noticed that anywhere they stood in downtown Gdansk, they were surrounded by three, four or more financial institution branches. “Again, this being a cash society, makes accessibility to branches more desirable,” Bergeron explained. He also noted that, in rural areas, it’s not unusual for mail carriers to deliver cash to people’s mail boxes. “Oddly, between these mail men delivering cash and people walking around with so much cash on the street, there’s not much in the way of theft. Stefczyk’s 300 or so branches have only experienced two attempted thefts over about a five-year period,” Bergeron added.