As I reflect back on 2022, I am amazed at how quickly it flew by and all that we accomplished. We have focused a lot on “POLAM Loyalty”. I want to thank each of you for your continued dedication to your member owned credit union. Without your loyalty and continued support, POLAM FCU would not be here to serve the community. We haven’t seen economic, turbulent times such as this in approximately 40 years. Member service, savings rates and loan rates remain a top priority for us. My gratitude is endless for those of you who have ridden the wave with us and understand that, for a financial institution of our size, we have trimmed every possible expense and continue to offer higher than peer average share certificate rates as well as kept our fees extremely low/nonexistent. Your loyalty is priceless to us, and I can assure you tha you remain at the forefront of every decision we make as a Credit Union. I cannot end 2022 without my eternal appreciation for an amazing team who represents POLAM FCU on a daily basis and the endless volunteer hours our dedicated Board of Directors and Supervisory Committee devote to keeping POLAM a strong, stable financial institution that you can be proud to be a part of. Szczęśliwego Nowego Roku!
The Annual Membership Meeting
To be held on May 13th, 2023
The nominating committee would like to announce the names of the candidates who have been nominated to the three 2-year positions available on the Board of Directors:
Andrew Kozlowski – currently serving on the POLAM Board of Directors with 40 yrs experience in leading multi-million dollar projects. Long time leader and member of numerous Polish American organizations.
Darek Swiatkowski – Co-owner of the Polka Deli in Orange County. He has been serving the Polish community for over 30 years: currently on the board of Pope John Paul II in Yorba Linda, Program Director of PAPA Club, involved in Polish American Congress and PNA.
Bogna Ladowicz-Szupinska – looking forward to helping grow POLAM in assets, strength, and membership. Bogna is a principal of her own architectural firm specializing in institutional projects like Pre-Schools, K-12, and City Halls.
Nominations may be made by submission of a petition with signatures from 1% of the credit union membership (20 signatures). At least 40 days before the annual meeting (April 3, 2023), nominees must file the nomination by petition with the secretary of the credit union. To be effective, nominees must include a signed certificate with the nomination petition stating that they are agreeable to nomination and will serve if elected to office. Please note that the credit union will not conduct the election by ballot and there will be no nominations from the floor when the number of nominees equals the number of open positions. For more information on obtaining petition forms and application call (800) 404-5137.
5-Star Polam Federal Credit Union Strength in Numbers
Los Angeles, California – September 2022: Polam Federal Credit Union, Los Angeles, California has once again earned a top (5-Star) rating from BauerFinancial, Inc., the Nation’s Premier Credit Union and Bank Rating Firm. Bauer rates every federally-insured credit union with the same strict standards. It’s all about the numbers, and in the case of Polam Federal Credit Union, the numbers show strength. To earn Bauer’s Top Rating (5-Stars) Polam Federal Credit Union must excel in areas of capital adequacy, profitability, loan quality and more. And it does. In fact, Polam Federal Credit Union had earned Bauer’s top rating continuously since December 2016. That’s 24 consecutive quarters.
“Polam Federal Credit Union has capital levels well in excess of what regulators consider to be ‘adequate’. That capital buffer is what will help Polam Federal Credit Union weather any downturn that may head our way, just as it has in the past. Capital is King in this business,” notes Karen Dorway, president of BauerFinancial. “It’s what enables a credit union to continue business as usual even as those around it struggle. What you want is an institution with high capital levels, strong loan underwriting and solid profits, and that’s what you have with Polam Federal Credit Union. Members and prospective members should feel secure in that.”
Established in 1969, Polam Federal Credit Union has been a mainstay for its field of membership for 53 years. Credit unions do business by building relationships with others that share a common bond. Current and future members should feel free to contact Polam Federal Credit Union in person, by phone or via its website: polam.org.
Dear POLAM Members and Friends of POLAM,
This has been a very busy year for our Credit Union so far. In May 2022, we hosted our annual Strategic Planning Session outlining POLAM’s long term operational and financial goals, to secure POLAM’s continuous and sustained growth in these challenging economic conditions.
In August, we held our Annual Meeting at our Larchmont office. POLAM members had a chance to listen to reports, ask questions and elect new Board directors. In addition, some members were recognized for their exceptional contribution to POLAM’s success. In particular, Barbara Martinoff for her 50 years of outstanding service as well RJ Przebinda from Gold Leaf Group for his extensive pro bono help in negotiating and structuring a beneficial long term tenant agreement. Let me assure you that the Board is working very hard to make POLAM the Polish-American financial institution you can be proud of.
A Message from The CEO:
We’ve been getting a lot of questions about interest rates lately. At POLAM FCU, we have several different savings options available to you. Please call us if you have any questions about the teaser rates that you may see advertised at other financial institutions. Are they federally insured? Are they tied to an ever-changing market rate that may lose or diminish your hard-earned funds? We see many members wowed by a high interest rate offering. We would like to help you compare. Pay attention to the asterisks after the interest rate. Is it the APR or the APY? What is the term and what are the other qualifications? We had one member who insisted that she found an unbelievable rate. When we helped her compare, yes, the rate looked great on the surface but with all the other requirements, it was actually a safer and better deal to keep her funds at her member-owned Credit Union. Here at POLAM, we value you and your membership and want to help you make the best financial decisions for you and your family. Remember, sometimes if it sounds too good to be true, it just may be. – Jennifer Audette
Continue the legacy…
…of membership with POLAM FCU! Open accounts for your family so they can benefit through all the stages
of their life. Eligibility at POLAM is open to family members of existing members, friends and family of Polish-Americans in Southern California or you can become a supporting member of the Polish American Congress with a $20 membership. https://www.pacsocal.org/join-us-donate The Polish American Congress of Southern California encourages you to consider an annual membership. Visit their website to learn more.
Dear Polam Members,
I would like to personally thank everyone that has made the last 8 months so welcoming for me. It is wonderful to be a part of a Polish community that is truly like a family. 2022 started with federal examiners (auditors) reviewing our financials and I am proud to declare that we are pronounced a financially safe and sound credit union. In a large part, it is because of YOU, our loyal members, who continue to both save and borrow with us and refer friends and family to POLAM, as well as the dedicated staff that keeps up with the ever changing world of compliance and technology. My hope is, with the recently implemented new Mobile Application, our large ATM and shared branching network, our members will find it especially convenient to handle their POLAM transactions with ease. We appreciate you and we value your membership. Let me assure you that all of us on the POLAM team are here to assist with any questions and requests you may have. Happy 53rd anniversary POLAM FCU!
Jennifer Audette, CEO
Drodzy Członkowie POLAMu,
Pierwsze kroki w nowej pracy są zawsze wyzwaniem niemal dla każdego nowego pracownika. Podobnie było w moim przypadku. Dlatego pragnę osobiście podziękować tym wszystkim, którzy mnie wsparli w pierwszych miesiącach mojej pracy w POLAMie. Milo mi pracować z Wami i dziękuję raz jeszcze za Wasze zaufanie. Rok 2022 rozpoczął się federalnym audytem naszej działalności. Z duma pragnę Was poinformować, że audyt potwierdził, iż POLAM jest finansowo bezpieczny i zdrowy. Silą POLAMu jesteście WY nasi członkowie, którzy korzystacie, z naszych usług i polecacie nasza instytucje swoim najbliższym jak i dalszym znajomym. Prężność POLAMU jest również zasługą naszych oddanych pracowników, którzy na co dzień, zmagają się z wyzwaniami technologicznymi i coraz t nowymi przepisami regulacyjnymi. Mam nadzieje, ze wdrożona niedawno aplikacja mobilna, siec dostępnych bankomatów (ATM) i oddziałów, pozwoli naszym członkom na wygodne dokonywanie czynności finansowych. Bardzo cenimy sobie Was – naszych członków. Zapewniam Was, ze wszyscy w teamie-POLAM są gotowi pomagać Wam i naszej społeczności oraz odpowiadać na Wasze pytania i potrzeby. I na koniec życzę wszystkim radosnej 53-ej rocznicy założenia POLAMu.
Jennifer Audette, CEO
Mam wielka przyjemność zapewnić Was, iż POLAM znajduje się pod stabilnym, zdolnym i ambitnym zarządem i przywództwem, potwierdzonym przez ostatnie audyty federalne, wewnętrzne i cyber-bezpieczeństwa. Wasza Rada Nadzorcza kształtuje przyszłość POLAMu – pracujemy wytrwale nad wypracowaniem strategii, która zapewni POLAMowi wzrost i pomyślność. Nadchodząca Sesja Planowania Strategicznego umożliwi nam sformułowanie i przyjęcie założeń finansowych i marketingowych na najbliższą przyszłość i w długim terminie. Jesteśmy świadomi wahań rynkowych i niepewności wynikającej z rosyjskiej agresji na Ukrainie. Będziemy reagować stosownie do sytuacji. Bądźcie pewni, drodzy członkowie POLAMu, ze od 53 lat jesteście w dobrych rękach. I oby na dłużej !
-Mariusz Kicinski, Chairman of the Board/Prezes Rady Nadzorczej
It is my great pleasure to reassure everyone that POLAM is under a stable, capable and ambitious management team and stewardship confirmed by recent federal, internal and cybersecurity audit. Your Board of Directors is in charge of shaping POLAM’s future. We, on the Board, are working diligently to produce strategies to keep POLAM prosperous and growing. The soon-to-come Strategic Planning Session will enable us to set the financial and marketing goals for POLAM’s immediate future and long-term goals. We are also aware of the market volatility and uncertainty resulting from the ongoing Russian aggression against Ukraine and will react to it accordingly. Rest assured, POLAM members, you have been in good hands for 53 years, and counting !
-Mariusz Kicinski, Chairman of the Board
How We Are Protecting You From P2P Fraud
Person-to-Person (P2P) services like Zelle, Venmo, or PayPal are a convenient way to transfer money to friends, family and individuals without having to carry cash or write out checks. Sadly, it has also become a convenient way for fraudsters to steal your money. The truth about many of these cash apps is that once the money is sent, it’s an “authorized transaction,” and there is no legal way to retrieve the funds.
Zelle unfortunately, is one of the higher risk apps and has been especially the target due to the speed in which the transfers are made (minutes versus hours or days). One of the latest fraud tactics is to target members of credit unions offering Zelle by using a sophisticated scam to defeat 2-step authentication. Fraudsters posing as a credit union’s fraud department will first send a text followed by a phone call alerting the member that a fraudulent transaction has occurred and to confirm the member’s identity they will send them a code that the member must provide to the fraudster. In reality, the fraudster just initiated the forgot password feature. When a member gives out that code, the fraudster is able to gain access to the account by resetting the passwords and sending the member’s funds out, fast. Faster fund transfer, does not always mean more secure.
Rest assured, we take utmost care to keep your funds secure and your information private, and therefore we are making the decision to not implement Zelle as part of our mobile banking app at this time. Keep in mind that we will never ask you to provide a code in response to a text message or a phone call. If we initiate a call, we will not ask you for personal information such as account numbers, usernames, passwords or any passcodes. We encourage you to come in or call us at (800) 404-5137 and establish new “out of the wallet” passwords. Remember to only send money to people you know, and most importantly, keep your account active and your information up to date, in case we need to reach you regarding your account.
Winter 2022 Chairman’s Message
The 2021 was a pivotal year for the Credit Union as we selected our new CEO/General Manager, Jennifer Audette. The selection process required due diligence and a significant commitment of time and effort. The Board of Directors picked the best candidate for the job out of a multitude of qualified candidates. We are very pleased with Jennifer’s skills, experience and enthusiasm necessary for this job, and want to wish her continuous success at POLAM.
POLAM’s mission statement is to promote the wellbeing and socio-economic advancement of its members – Polish- Americans, Poles and friends of Poland. Let’s be true to our mission and provide continued support for POLAM to the benefit of our members. Finally, may the 2022 be a joyful, prosperous and a very healthy year for all of you.
Rok 2021 byl szczegolnym dla naszej Unii Kredytowej, poniewaz wielkim nakladem czasu oraz starannosci dokonalismy wyboru nowej Dyrektor Generalnej, Jennifer Audette, ktora posiada stosowne doswiadczenie, entuzjazm, spelnia wszystkie merytoryczne oczekiwania Rady Nadzorczej i okazala sie najlepszym kandydatem sposrod wielu aplikantow na to stanowisko. Zyczymy jej samych sukcesow w kierowaniu POLAMem.
Przypominam, ze misja POLAMu jest wspieranie dobrobytu naszej bazy czlonkowskiej – Polonii, Polakow a takze przyjaciol Polski. Badzmy wierni naszej misji i wspierajmy POLAM dla dobra naszych czlonkow. W Nowym Roku zycze wszystkim zdrowia, szczescia i wszelkiej pomyslnosci.
Mariusz Kicinski, Chairman of the Board
Big improvements are coming to you banking experience!
As a part of our commitment to provide the latest banking technology to our members, POLAM has EXCITING plans for 2022! Over the past few months, we have been working diligently to bring the newest banking technologies to you!
Online Banking Makeover: It’s time to update your online banking experience! Not only will you see a new look for this convenient service, but we are also improving the security and adding an enhanced bill payment tool from CheckFree. Look for more information on the website soon.
Mobile App: Although we’d love to see you in the branch, we understand that you want access to mobile banking wherever you are. Soon, you’ll have access to your POLAM account directly from your phone or tablet with our branded banking app. Our new app will let you check your balance, transfer funds and much more. Get ready to navigate your account securely and quickly with a simple download from the App Store or Google Play!
eStatements: Did you know you can access your credit union statements via online banking? It’s an easy and convenient way to manage your finances. Sign up for eStatements today! Once you’ve logged into POLAM online banking simply follow the link to eStatements to enroll.
Congratulations to the new 2021 Board of Directors :
Chairman of the Board – Mariusz Kicinski
Vice Chairman – Michelle Koterba
Director – Andy Dobrzynski
Director – Andrew B. Kozlowski
Director – Dariusz Swiatkowski
Director – Elisabeth Szupinska aka Bogna Ladowicz
Director – Donna Zuchowski
The Annual Meeting concluded with the announcement of the Board of Directors election results. Congratulations to the following persons who were elected to the 3 vacant posts:
Andrew B. Kozlowski
Elisabeth Szupinska aka Bogna Ladowicz
August 23, 2021
POLAM FCU announces the appointment of industry veteran Jennifer Audette to succeed former CEO Chris Hiller who retired in April, 2021 after 40 years of service to the credit union. The Board of Directors of POLAM FCU conducted a comprehensive national search to find the best candidate to take over the operations of the credit union and help move it to the next level.
After evaluating a diverse and talented pool of candidates from all over the country and assessing the needs the of the credit union, it became clear that the best candidate for the position was Jennifer Audette. She has devoted her career over the past 27 years to the credit union movement and has the vast operational and managerial knowledge necessary to navigate POLAM FCU to newer heights and ensure that it remains viable and relevant to its membership, which consists of the Polish community in Southern California.
POLAM FCU Board Chairman Pierre Bunikiewicz stated, “POLAM FCU has been fortunate to have a solid staff of extremely competent professionals that allowed the board to take its time in the incoming CEO selection process, and the Board warmly welcomes the chosen candidate.”
POLAM FCU Vice-Chairman Mariusz Kicinski stated, “This decision was perhaps one of the most important decisions that we had to make as a board and we were clear that the safety of the members’ assets which has been entrusted to the credit union was at the center of our decision. We thank the staff for their partnership with us through this process. We attribute much of POLAM FCU’s success to these professionals who make sure the credit union is successful on a day-to-day basis. We are confident that Jennifer will help take us to the next level.”
Incoming CEO Jennifer Audette stated, “I am excited to be part of such a well-managed organization that helps enhance the livelihood of its Polish-American membership base, I am looking forward to help the membership of POLAM FCU in improving their financial livelihood and build on the strong foundation that was built by the team before my arrival.”
A message from the Chairman of the Board – Pierre Bunikiewicz
As California reopens, I am glad that POLAM is now back to its pre-Covid schedule. Despite the challenges the Covid related emergency measures posed to all of us, we continue to thrive in our 52nd year of operations, and we continue to offer the wide array of services available prior to and during the Covid disruption.
I would like to warmly thank the members of our Board of Directors and Supervisory Committee who, for some having served our POLAM Community for nearly twenty-five years, for others over a decade, have spent considerable time over the past 16 months to ensure that POLAM’s business remains on the right track and moves forward past the Covid era and into the 21st Century. I would also like to particularly thank our staff whose dedication to serving the members, understanding of the membership and whose input over the years have been essential in ensuring the success of our Credit Union. Always team players and in tune with management, they made our banking business and lives in many ways better. I would like to thank the following team members:
Ania– Interim CEO, who just celebrated her 15th year on the team
Asia – Head of Card Services, team member of over 27 Years
Marzena – Senior Loan Officer, team member of over 23 years
Malgosia – Member and Loan Services Team for over 20 years
Marysia– Compliance Officer, employee of over 15 years
Gosia – Member Services Team since 2015
Iwona – Member Services Team since 2017
Danuta – Orange County Branch Manager, employee of over 12 years
Patrycja – Orange County Member Services Team since 2017
Finally, I would like to thank you, members of POLAM. Your continuous banking with us despite Covid means a lot. You have shown that, rain or shine, you are the backbone of the POLAM Community. I encourage you take advantage of the full array of services offered. Remember us when you purchase a new car or when you are looking for a loan, and of course, please promote our wonderful financial institution to friends and family!
POLAM in the Community:
POLAM team members Danuta and Gosia handed out the special $200 POLAM Polish School Graduation Certificates to 8th graders in Orange County. Congratulations to both students and parents on surviving Saturday school!
CEO – Christopher Hiller Retiring After 44 Years
A message from Christopher Hiller:
In the blink of an eye 44 years have passed since I was hired in 1977 as the general manager of POLAM at the young age of 26. At the time, the credit union had just surpassed $1 Million in assets and the only technology available was telephones and adding machines. All accounting functions were performed manually, and the adoption of computers did not take place until years later. Our resources and range of services was modest, but our spirit and determination were unstoppable fueled by a feeling of optimism and solidarity within the Polish Community. For those who had an entrepreneurial spirit, California offered an abundance of economic opportunities and served as the apex of social and economic change for the country. Simply put the 70’s and the 80’s were a magical time to be living in So. California.
By the late 80’s we had implemented a full range of services, our assets surpassed $20 Million, and we expanded into Orange County. In 1998, now as CEO rather than GM, I initiated the idea of purchasing a somewhat dilapidated building on Larchmont from the Armenian Benevolent Society. As it turns out this was a very wise decision. After a complete renovation, the building provided a steady stream of rental income and over time provided POLAM with an equity position of approx. $7 Million. Throughout the early 2000’s we continued to expand services and grow deposits. We joined the Financial Services Network which gave our members access to over 5000 shared branching locations nationwide. The credit union established a reputation for being a benefactor of Polish Art and Culture by sponsoring events like the Polish Film Festival, radio, schools, dance groups, and many others. POLAM also earned the distinction of being one of the few Polish organizations to draw support from a diverse cross-section of the community. People of all ages and social- economic backgrounds were represented within the ranks of the credit union’s membership. As such, POLAM took on the role of being a unifying factor to an otherwise fragmented community.
By the time POLAM celebrated its 50th Anniversary in 2019, it had funded thousands of loans valued at close to $250 Million thereby fulfilling its mission statement which reads “We are dedicated to the well-being and social-economic advancement of our members”. The sold-out 50th Anniversary celebration took place at the prestigious Athenaeum at Caltech. The event was one of the most memorable in our community’s history and a fitting tribute to one of the largest and most enduring organizations to serve local Polonia.
I am proud to have been at the helm of POLAM for 44 years, a period of longevity that has never before been achieved in our community and in all probability will never be duplicated. Along the way I dealt with many difficult challenges and met some wonderful people. I am sometimes asked, what the key to my professional longevity is? The simple answer is, doing the work while keeping a low profile. At this point I look forward to fulfilling my travel bucket list, enjoying my friends and family, and getting involved in a number of causes that are near and dear to me.
In parting I would like to borrow a phrase from the nomadic people who rather than saying good bye, instead say: “See You Along the Way” – Do Zobaczenia Po Drodze!
Henryk & Lila Westwalewicz, Co-Founders of the
Polish American Congress Federal Credit Union
We are Celebrating our
Save the Date October 5th
POLAM will be turning 50 this year. In October of 1969, the National Credit Union Administration approved a new Credit Union Charter based on an application from 10 founding members. From its modest beginnings operating out of a garage with no technology other than a phone and adding machine, POLAM has flourished over the last 50 years into a full-service, well- established credit union and is now the oldest Polish credit union in all of the Western United States. We are proud of our longevity, our consistently high ratings, our sponsorship of Polish Art and Culture and the positive economic impact that we have made to the Polish Community having funded over $200 million in loans.
To mark this special occasion POLAM will be hosting a gala celebration on October 5th at The Athenaeum at Caltech in Pasadena. Further details regarding this highly anticipated event including how tickets may be purchased will be made available in our July newsletter. For now, please save the date, we look forward to celebrating our Golden 50th Anniversary with you.