The Polish Bank Association (ZBP)
Self-government organization of banks, established in 1991, founded on the Chambers of Commerce Charter. Membership in the ZBP is voluntary and open for all banks created under the Polish law as well as for foreign credit institutions branches operating in the Republic of Poland.
Polish Banks’ actions towards refugees from Ukraine
Since the beginning of the Russian aggression against Ukraine, the banks operating in Poland have been trying to make it easier for the newcomers from Ukraine to function in their new reality. Lots of banks quickly responded to the needs of refugees directly and also prepared Ukrainian language version of their websites and document templates while simplifying procedures for setting up accounts and resigning from fees for their maintenance, issuance and running a payment card, ATM withdrawals or transfers to Ukraine. These actions will be continually adjusted.
Due to the Russian aggression against Ukraine, 2.34 million refugees have been sent to Poland since February 24. The wave war-induced migration is considered to be the fastest growing humanitarian crisis in Europe since the end of World War II, nonetheless help for Ukrainian citizens seeking shelters in Poland flows from almost every side.
After the conflict broke out, the banks operating in Poland joined the stream of aid aimed at refugees almost immediately. The actions of banks are both direct and material - through the organization of fundraising and coordination of aid actions - as well as operational - facilitating the use of payment infrastructure and quick adaptation the scope of its services to the needs of people coming to Poland. In this regard it is essential providing refugees with access to basic payment services and improving distribution financial support intended for them, so that they can start their normal functioning in new realities.
In the first days from the beginning of the conflict, Bank Gospodarstwa Krajowego (BGK) on the initiative of Polish Payments Standard - the operator of the BLIK system - launched a special account on behalf of the National Bank of Ukraine intended for the payment of funds to help Ukraine. Most of the banks that work with charity foundations created similar initiatives aimed at coordinating aid actions. Fundraising organized by our financial institutions has already collected tens of millions of zlotys in direct aid. Volunteers from the Polish banking sector are also directly involved in help for refugees.
Moreover, in the area of settlements of transactions carried out in Poland cards issued by banks from Ukraine, some Polish acquirers resigned from dynamic currency conversion at ATMs and POS terminals so that Ukrainian customers do not incur higher currency conversion costs at the time of purchase.
Thanks to the agreement between the National Bank of Poland and the NBU, Ukrainian citizens residing in Poland can exchange hryvnia to Polish zloty at the official rounded rate, effective since 25th of march. The PKO BP is involved in this process and has created separate desks in its branches enabling this service. As part of the PKO BP and NBP program, 13 thousand Ukrainians exchanged the hryvnia into zlotys within first 3 days. The exchange rate set for this operation by the NBU is 0.14 zlotys per hryvnia. None of the participants of the operation charges any exchange fees. Adult citizens of Ukraine can exchange up to 10,000 hryvnia per person. The NBP will sell the purchased hryvnia to The National Bank of Ukraine at the same rate. The NBU will buy from the NBP up to 10 billion hryvnia in cash.
In the area of services, the banks in Poland are constantly working to adjust their operations to the needs of refugees, trying to facilitate adaptation in this difficult period. Many banks introduced Ukrainian language versions of their websites and launched helpdesks in Ukrainian language while also translating product information. In most cases, they were introduced facilitating the opening of accounts. Banks resigned from fees for servicing accounts, as well as from fees for issue and maintenance of cards or for withdrawals from ATMs. There are no commissions charged on foreign transfers bound for Ukraine.
Banks also act as an intermediary in the distribution of funds intended for refugees, including encouraging the use of electronic banking services, mobile applications and – after obtaining a PESEL number beforehand - enabling the creation of a trusted profile, which gives an access to aid funds, both from domestic sources, i.e. 500+, EU and those transferred by other countries, such as the USA or Canada.
In the area of services, there are also activities aimed at standardizing the package intended for customers from Ukraine forced to flee the war as well as more extensive educational and information activities, in particular in the field of cybersecurity rules.
However, the verification of the identity of refugees remains a key challenge. Provisions for counteracting money laundering and terrorist financing are very strict, a the present situation does not exempt financial institutions from complying with them, as it is about protecting them only the clients themselves, but also the financial security of the country. In the case of people with an identity document, i.e. a passport or internal Ukrainian identity card, opening an account shouldn’t be a problem. It is much more of a challenge while the service by banks of people who arrived without documents or their identity cards are present badly damaged. The Polish Bank Association is in contact with the relevant national institutions on this specific matter, but also with the Ukrainian authorities to properly identify these people.
The situation of people who had to return to Ukraine from Poland, even in connection with a summons to military service. In many of the tens of thousands of such cases, these people they had a bank account in a Polish financial institution, a loan or a deposit to which they did not they gave authorization to even the immediate family. Banking sector in agreement with the supervisory authorities will do everything to keep the problems of the families of Ukrainian bank account owners resolved as soon as possible.
Selected actions of banks in the face of the migration crisis and the war in Ukraine:
Selected activities for bank employees:
- Persons previously employed in Ukraine in a subsidiary bank are employed by the head office abroad. Employment in Poland is associated with challenges in the field of tax matters, ZUS, etc. These people often work in Poland, but their wages and other benefits are paid by headquarters.
- For these people, accommodation was found, free accounts were set up, and a cash package was paid out. These people were covered by medical care. The families of bank employees were pulled from behind border and received the same financial and medical aid.
- The right to additional paid days off for employees from Ukraine was created.
- The phone limits for domestic and Ukrainian calls have also been increased to 500 minutes.
- Psychological help is provided for employees and their families (how to talk to children about war) - webinars and helplines.
- Legal aid was provided.
- Assistance in organizing and financing Polish language learning
- Support is also given to contractors and contractors of banks.
- Managers were supported so that they could assist in the best possible way employees.
- An intranet dedicated to communication about the needs of people from Ukraine was established.
- There are some difficulties in employing people from Ukraine, because even programmers do not always speak good English.
- Individuals from Ukraine are employed in bank branches for facilitation purposes service of Ukrainians by banks.
Selected actions to alleviate the migration crisis:
- Additional days are used for volunteering, including going to Ukraine.
- A fundraiser is underway using the funds of employees and banks transferred both to specific institutions and organizations in Ukraine and in Poland and to international organizations.
- Foundations established by banks are involved.
- Transport of people and children from the border, but also abroad.
- Providing company cars to employees who decide to bring people from the border.
- Helping people find their place on the labor market in Poland. Learning Polish for refugees.
- The foundations cooperate with Ukrainians from Dniepro and Mariupol in the collection of food, water.
- In Poland, foundations help children brought from orphanages in Ukraine.
- BGK coordinates the management of volunteering in The Torwar Arena.
- mBank used its old headquarters as premises for Ukrainians, a school was also created there and a common room.
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Communique of the Polish Bank Association on aid measures taken by banks in connection with the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.
The English version is for information purposes only. Official Communiqué document drawn up in Polish.
This Communication is submitted by banks in the face of the threat of spreading the COVID-19 pandemic, which may have today unpredictable effects on the financial situation of borrowers - bank clients.
This Communication indicates:
- recognition by banks as desirable for them to take urgent appropriate and adequate measures to address difficulties in repayment of liabilities to banks which, due to the COVID-19, may be borne by borrowers;
- assuring clients that the actions taken by banks are aimed at introducing as simplified and deformalized assistance measures as possible for natural and legal persons who are borrowers and in financial difficulties due to the COVID-19;
Considering the above, the banks will take the following actions towards clients in relation to the COVID-19.
- Banks will facilitate in the most simplified way - to the extent permitted by the provisions of the current law – postponement (suspension) of repayment of principal and interest installments or capital installments for a period of up to 3 months and automatic extension by the same period of the total loan repayment period provided extension of the period of validity of loan collateral. The facilitations are to relate to housing loans, consumer loans for individual clients, loans to entrepreneurs and will include on quick consideration of the applications of those clients who justify the need to postpone (suspend) their loan due to their financial situation caused by the COVID-19.
- The banks will provide their assistance to all entrepreneurs who had creditworthiness at the end of 2019, who were affected by the effects of the COVID-19 and who are due to renew existing financing in the coming months, in the form of renewal of financing for a period of up to 6 months at the request of the client.
- Banks that have a leasing company in their capital group will take action to apply postponement of repayment of leasing installments due from lessees on the same basis as applied by the bank in relation to postponed loan repayment.
- Banks that have a factoring company in their capital group will take action to apply postponement of repayments due from customers on a parallel basis to the one applied by the bank in relation to postponed loan repayment.
- Banks will not charge fees or commissions for the acceptance and consideration of applications for suspension of repayment of principal and interest installments or principal installments. Banks will enable submission of these applications in a less formalized manner, i.e. without the need to submit additional documents and certificates confirming in detail the current financial and economic situation. Banks will provide the opportunity to submit these applications also via e-mail, electronic banking or telephone according to the forms of communication provided for in the agreement with the bank. Banks will allow the submission of the above mentioned applications in a remote form even if it was not included in the contract with the bank, provided that the customer can be identified.
- Banks are ready to launch the process of facilitating access to short-term credit to entrepreneurs to stabilize the financial standing of a client who has been affected by the effects of the COVID-19. Banks are waiting for the quick completion of work initiated in recent days by state authorities and government agencies, which will make possible to offer such assistance. The next communication will provide details on how to facilitate an access to short-term loans.
- Banks will take part in works that will allow to increase the maximum amount of contactless payments to PLN 100 in a short time.
- The banks, in cooperation with the Cashless Poland Foundation, will take steps to install additional tens of thousands of POS devices in places where payment transactions are carried out.
Banks declare that the provisions of this Communication will be immediately implemented and applied by the banks.
At the same time, the banks call on state authorities to take urgent measures to mitigate the economic effects of the COVID -19 in Poland for entrepreneurs and to ensure the stability of the financial system.
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Within the Association there are numerous consultative committees, councils, task forces and other bodies. Their objective is to develop and issue opinions and positions in matters determining the correct operation of the Polish banking system.
The Association of Polish Banks is a member of the European Banking Federation (www.ebf-fbe.eu) /since 1992/, the ICC Poland www.iccpolska.pl /since 2000/, the International Association of Banking Security / since1997/ and the European Payments Council (www.europeanpaymentscouncil.eu) /since 2002/.
The Polish Banks Association is a founder of the prestigious journalistic Marian Krzak award intended for journalists and publicists dealing with the banking issues, and a co-founder of the Marian Kanton award for the best Master and Doctoral thesis in banking, with particular consideration of inter-bank settlements.
In 2000 and 2003, the Association was granted the Alice Award for all its activities, for establishing the institution of the Banking Ombudsman, and for the Campaign for Direct Debit. The ZBP has also received the “European Pearl” award for the institutional input in the promotion of the European idea in Poland, and in particular for the creation of the Polish banking infrastructure.
The Banker’s Club in Warsaw (www.klubbankowca.pl) is managed by the Association.
The changes of social, economic, political and technological nature that we are currently observing in numerous countries are taking place at a very fast pace. Unfortunately, the contemporary world is rocked by a number of clashes and tensions of economic and territorial character. Confl icts and disputes of a purely political variety are observed as well, with all of them exerting a highly negative impact on international cooperation, security and global economic order. With all those circumstances taken into consideration, forecasting the scenarios based on which individual countries will be developing becomes a very diffi cult task that requires a number of processes of both intra-continental and global nature to be taken into account.
The “Poland and Europe - Challenges and Limitations” report should be treated as an introduction and invitation to a broader discussion concerned with topics that are of great significance from the point of view of Polish citizens and the national economy. These topics are related to the much needed increase in the capacity of the Polish banks and of other related institutions to participate in the implementation of national and regional development programs, with the security of deposits and the stability of fi nancial institutions that play such an important role in market economy taken into consideration as well.