The following post is provided by the National Association of Cooperative Savings and Credit Unions (NACSCU), World Council’s direct member organization in Poland. It was written by Justyna Leonhardt, Deputy Head of Financial Analysis and Product Development at Zygmunta Chmielewskiego Credit Union.
Recently, we have all faced difficult times due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Over the last few months we’ve had to revisit our goals. The health and safety of our staff and members became the most important objective.
Hence, we’ve concentrated on activities centred around safety and hygiene education. We know that our members cherish face-to-face contact with our employees. Therefore, we had to act in two ways, by:
- Ensuring safety in our branches.
- Focusing on product offerings that enabled our members to manage their finances from home.
In our branches, we’ve implemented all the necessary safety measures. To achieve that, we had to reorganize our service processes. Now our employees make appointments at specific times to keep the number of people present to a bare minimum. Additionally, we educate our members to follow safety instructions during their appointments. To inform members about those safety precautions, we’ve put educational posters on the windows.
We want our employees to feel safe. Thus, we’ve equipped them with disinfectant, gloves, helmets and masks. Furthermore, we’ve reorganized the space in our branches to adhere to the recommended safe distance. We have reduced service time in our branches, so that our employees can disinfect their workspace. Documents we get from our clients are put in separate boxes and are subsequently disinfected. Despite all those safety measures, we encourage our members to stay at home and use our remote services whenever possible.
To encourage our members to use electronic access channels and limit the necessity for visits to our branches, our management decided to launch a new account product. Our members who use this product don’t have to pay for activities performed via electronic access channels. We mounted a huge campaign to encourage the use of electronic access channels and pay by card. We have noted a large increase of new accounts and the issuance of more VISA cards. Our credit union has seen more cashless transactions as well. Our credit union members were also given the ability to pay higher amounts of money without entering a PIN code.
The average age of our members is relatively high. They might have some difficulties using online accounts and mobile applications. Hence, we set up information booths, where our employees could show and explain how to use them. Of course, all of this is done in compliance with the necessary safety measures. We also promoted new sales channels. We introduced a new service allowing our members to obtain a loan contract, account contract or a card contract by phone. Our employees can conduct the entire process remotely. It’s easy and comfortable for our members, and they can stay safe at home.
We promoted the use of electronic access channels and the possibility to obtain contracts by phone on social media as well—a platform where we significantly increased all our activity during the pandemic. We’ve put many posts on our Facebook page and website. The main topic was safety and suggestions for leisure activities. For example—we had a very popular series of articles about home cultivation. We also shared some noteworthy statistics about our activities. Our members were warned about fraudulent activities and got some behavioural guidelines in case they might be affected. We’ve also posted information about government restrictions, changes in the operating hours of our branches, and information about finance and the economy. Additionally, we’ve posted some brain teasers and crosswords for children. We published a monthly bulletin as well, with one issue dedicated to safety instructions.
The next step we are exploring to help minimize the effects of the pandemic is the possibility of postponing loan payments. We constantly analyze the financial situation of our members. In order to judge whether they are able to pay their loans, we look at their overall situation. Moreover, we recognize their financial needs and try to find the best way to satisfy them. If needed, we help them by offering various convenient solutions. We support our members to in any way we can to help them through this difficult phase.
Throughout all these hard times, we are backed by the National Association of Co-operative Savings and Credit Unions (NACSCU), which helps Polish credit unions by offering new solutions and products. Zygmunta Chmielewskiego Credit Union is already working on some new projects. We will soon be offering a multi-currency card which makes us more attractive to members. Our credit union has also signed a contract with Paybynet to enable account owners to pay quicker and easier at many online shops.
Over the last few weeks we noticed that our members are slowly returning to our branches. We want our members to know we are available for them. We respond fast and flexibly to their needs. We believe it is important we go through these difficult times together, side-by-side with our members and employees. Furthermore, we hope that our relationship will become even stronger.
Zygmunta Chmielewskiego Credit Union was founded in 1994. Our headquarters is in Lublin, Poland. Last year, we celebrated our 25th anniversary. Today, we have 102 branches and more than 200,000 members in our credit union.
For more information on the multi-currency card and Paybynet services NACSCU is offering its Polish credit unions, please visit World Council’s Challenge 2025 page.