50 and growing, POLAM Federal Credit Union on Larchmont

| August 1, 2019 | 0 Comments

POLAM CEO Chris Miller says the local site offers the same services as a bank, but at better rates and with old-fashioned friendliness.

Back in the old days when you needed to borrow money to buy a house or a car you would probably walk to your local bank and talk to someone you knew or were friendly with.

Today, that kind of service still exists at the Polish American (POLAM) Federal Credit Union of Southern California, 589 N. Larchmont Blvd. “We offer the same services as a bank but we’re not for profit,” explains POLAM Chief Executive Officer Chris Miller.

Its not-for-profit status makes the local credit union a friendly place, much more so than found at the mega-banks and corporate world of today.

Miller, who manages an 11-member staff, says he can probably name 100 of his customers he calls “members.”

In fact, he adds, “If you apply for a loan, you are talking to the person who will give you the loan. I don’t see banks doing that.”

There’s a good chance if you’re seeking a loan — the majority here are for real estate of up to four-unit properties —you’ll be talking to 20-year veteran Senior Loan Officer Marzena Wisniewski.

CEO Miller has been with the credit union 41 of its 50 years.

It was founded in October 1969 by 10 members out of a garage; it soon moved to offices on Wilshire Blvd. Miller, a UCLA graduate, started with a team of volunteers in its early years.

In 1984, POLAM moved to 588 N. Larchmont before purchasing the property at its current site 21 years ago. The Larchmont building also houses the local chapter of the national Polish American Congress and that too operates on the ground floor of the 6,700 square foot building.

Besides loans — it has funded over $200 million in loans to date — POLAM offers deposit accounts with higher interest rates than banks and Visa cards with single-digit rates, Miller said.

The federally insured portfolio lender (assets have grown from $1 million in 1969 to $65 million today) has a vast network for ATM access through a credit union co-op.

Like many on staff, Miller was born in Poland. He and his family immigrated in the 1950s from communist-era Poland. The Eastern European country was a bleak place at the time, he recalled. But that’s all changed with the country’s status today as the sixth largest economy in the European Union, he smiles.

Not Polish? No problem

Membership criteria at the Larchmont-based credit union is to be Polish or have a friend who is Polish, or even a friend of a friend. It’s flexible, other than a minimum $100 deposit.

The credit union’s 2,000 members hail from throughout Southern California. Ironically, with modern technology, members can do much of their banking from home. But, if needed, a real person is just a phone call, or a walk, away.

A celebration of the institution’s Golden 50th anniversary will be held Sat., Oct. 5 at The Athenaeum at Caltech in Pasadena.

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Category: Real Estate

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