Electronic Journal of Polish Agricultural Universities (EJPAU) founded by all Polish Agriculture Universities presents original papers and review articles relevant to all aspects of agricultural sciences. It is target for persons working both in science and industry,regulatory agencies or teaching in agricultural sector. Covered by IFIS Publishing (Food Science and Technology Abstracts), ELSEVIER Science - Food Science and Technology Program, CAS USA (Chemical Abstracts), CABI Publishing UK and ALPSP (Association of Learned and Professional Society Publisher - full membership). Presented in the Master List of Thomson ISI.
Volume 8
Issue 4
Available Online: http://www.ejpau.media.pl/volume8/issue4/art-13.html


Marcin Idzik
Department of Agricultural Economics and International Economic Relations, Warsaw Agricultural University, Poland



In this paper the author discusses the level of use of retail banking services in Poland, conditions of its development and reasons for not using banking services. Other factors evaluated were survey respondents’ level of knowledge of financial institutions, and reasons for their fears and satisfaction with bank services offered to individual consumers. In addition, the need for reduction of incidence of the financial exclusion phenomenon and not providing services to the poorer social stratum was investigated.

Key words: retail banking, financial exclusion, deposit accounts, credits, personal accounts, banks’ image, bank services.


The range of use of financial services by Polish households has not reached the level observed in highly developed countries. In Poland, banking services are used by a lower number of citizens than in the “old” European Union member countries, as well as in the Czech Republic, and Hungary. According to the Roland Berger Strategy Consultants report [6], the number of current accounts as a percentage of the country’s citizens is 39%, whereas in the “old” European Union member countries it amounts to 90%, in the Czech Republic – 53%, and in Hungary – 19%. According to the Statistical Indicators Benchmarking the Information Society (SIBIS) data [8], every 4th citizen of the European Union uses e-banking, whereas in Poland only every 20th citizen, in Czech Republic – 10th and in Denmark – 2nd.

A justifiable forecast for Poland is that in the near future banking services will become a part of minimum “services”, which in consumption theory are the services necessary for adequate functioning of a household* [2]. In the mean time, there are numerous questions to ask which have basic meaning for Polish retail banking. To what extent do the Polish use bank services? Do lack of knowledge and accessibility hinder consumer adoption of banking services? What psychological and physical barriers stop retail banking development in Poland? What are the personal characteristics of persons who do not use bank services? What level of banking services use will Polish society reach in the next several years and when will it reach the level observed in higher developed countries?

In order to answer these questions, an analysis of Polish retail banking market conditions and factors which determine its development was completed. The empirical data for this research came from original surveys conducted by Pentor Institute for Opinion and Market Research. The survey was administered to a 1000-person representative sample of Polish citizens aged from 15 and over each year from 1993-2004.


It is often assumed that the proportion of people using a current account, a basic bank product that involves deposit and credit services as well as payment turnover facilitated for each household, is the rate of use of retail banking services.

Graph 1. Percentage of Polish people using specified banking services, 1993-2004
Source: [1]

At the beginning of the 90s, use of bank services was declared by one out of every three Poles 15 or more years of age (graph 1). The spectrum of personal bank products was limited mainly to the use of current accounts or savings accounts. In 2004, over half of all adults were bank clients. In 2004, 48% of society possessed personal current accounts. The increase in the number of current accounts was influenced by the dissemination and use of banking cards. In 1997, 2% of Poles declared owning a banking card and by 2004 this proportion increased to 36%. During the years 1993-1998 a relatively steady level of deposits was observed, but beginning in 1999 the level of savings deposits has been decreasing systematically as a result of changing economic conditions and the introduction of alternative and attractive new ways to make savings deposits. A downturn in the economy during the years 1999-2000 lead to a downward trend in obtaining credit from banks.

When asked the question: “What banking services do you understand as a result of using bank services?” respondents answered: current account (81%), credit/loan (72%), deposit (50%), passbook (44%), debit cards (40%) making payments (30%), currency exchange (33%), and investment account (15%). It should be added that there is no statistically significant difference between the group of people using bank services and those not using bank services. Groups using and groups not using bank services identify a similar number of products as bank services which they understand.


In Poland less than 40 banks offer retail banking services. This market is divided, and 64% of it in 2004 was possessed by three banks. They were PKO Bank Polski S.A (33%), Pekao S.A. (15%), and Cooperative Banks (16%). Other members of this market each possessing about 7% share were: ING Bank Śląski S.A., Bank Zachodni WBK S.A. and Bank BPH S.A., (graph 2).

Graph 2. Current Account Market shares of the main Polish banks, 2000-2004
Source: [1]


People who do not use bank services are:

People who do not use bank services are also noticeably overrepresented among:

Psychographic features of people who do not use bank services are mostly:


In this section the author references results of research on the category of human needs and regularities connected with them:

  1. There is no human activity, which has no source in a need. However, in order to inspire one to take up an activity, it must pass through the filter of human consciousness. Next, necessary conditions are to have knowledge of the subject which can meet this need and conviction that its fulfilment is even slightly possible.

  2. Consciousness of needs and measures and ways of meeting them are imparted by social and material conditions of living.

  3. People form their needs and aspirations as a result of contacts with their surroundings.

A household’s relationship with a banking institution is conditioned by the existence of a particular need in the consciousness of the household’s member. Possession of knowledge on an appropriate service offered by a bank and conviction that use of the bank’s service fulfil a particular need is possible.

Simultaneously, the level of clients’ expectations towards quality of bank services has been increasing. Development of human needs in a market economy causes banks to react. They extend and improve bank services with attention to the principle of maximal adjustment to needs and preferences of consumers.

However, a rise in the use of bank services is an incentive to banks to improve accessibility of services (increase in number of branches, use of new distribution channels). For clients this means a significant increase in the convenience of contacting a bank [3]. In order to achieve a good working relationship with customers, it is necessary for banks to address barriers connected with their level and conditions of living, consciousness, knowledge and inclination to use bank services as well as breaking the barrier of accessibility and attractiveness (graph 3).

Graph 3. Factors conditioning change of the attitude of Poles towards banks and development of retail banking in Poland
Source: [9]


During the discussion about reasons for not using of bank services by individual clients it is possible to use the hypothesis that there are many people who do not use them, but for only a few reasons [9]. These reasons lay both on the banks’ and people’s side. Generally they can be grouped as barriers in the consciousness and mentality of society, barriers resulting from the level and conditions of living and barriers of access resulting from conditions set by banks.

Before 1999, consumers have stated that the main reason for not using banking services was the lack of financial resources and the need to use such services. But since 1999 there has been a significant decrease in opinion concerning the lack of need for bank services and a large increase in limitation connected with a shortage of steady income (graph 4).

Graph 4. Main reasons of not using bank services according to opinion of Poles, 1999 and 2003
Source: [9]

However, unemployment, lack of steady incomes, inaccessibility for people with low incomes, high costs of bank services and shortage of confidence in banks were, according to public opinion, reasons for the lower tendency of Poles to use bank services compared to other inhabitants of Western Europe (graph 5). It should be added that per capita financial assets of the average Pole in 2002 was ten times lower than for Spaniards, 17 times lower than German, and 33 times lower than British.

According to banking experts, the main reasons for the lower tendency of Poles to use banks services compared to their western neighbours results from unemployment and a lack of steady incomes, lack of savings habits or need for saving, high costs connected with the use of banks, and inaccessibility of these institutions to people with lower incomes.

Graph 5. Reasons of the lower tendency of Poles to use bank services compared to inhabitants of Western Europe according to banking experts and public opinion in 2003
Source: [9]

Household material conditions or standard of living and self-evaluation of financial situation are factors which are fundamental for retail banking development. Confirmation of this thesis is a fact that “it is necessary to come with something to a bank in order to be its client”. In 2003, 53% of households did not use bank services because their financial resources were not enough whereas, 34% of households that did use banking services also stated that their financial resources were not enough (graph 6).

Graph 6. Material condition of households using and not using bank services, 1999 and 2003
Source: [9]

In other survey results, a proportion of adult Poles, indicated an inability to save anything from their monthly incomes. According to declarations, in 2003 almost one half of respondents not using bank services were not able to save anything, among persons using bank services this proportion was 23%. With some effort, without a reduction in standard of living and only by forgoing some luxuries or pleasures, 35% of people who do not use bank services were not able to save. This situation took place with 16% of the people who use bank services. With a significant limitation in expenses, tightening their belts, and maximum reduction in standard of living one out of every three persons who do not use bank services was not able to save; and 13% of those using bank services were in the same situation. Twenty percent of people not using bank services and 7% of people using bank services were not able to save anything under any circumstance(s). Results of research conducted by the Central Statistical Office [2003] pointed out that in 2005 only one out of every ten Poles believed that he or she will be able to save any amount from financial resources. Also, an increase in the range of poverty in Poland was indicated. According to the Central Statistical Office 12% of Poles lived below the limit of 50% of average monthly expenses of households in 1995, in 2002 this proportion was 18.4%.

The tendency to save or use credit can be used to indicate the level of belief in the need for using bank services (table 1). Generally, in 2003, 53% of the Polish population supported going into debt; 39% were indifferent and 7% were against the use of bank credit. Saving makes no sense according to 12% of Poles. One should save but it should not be connected with sacrifice in the opinion of 49% of respondents. According to 38% of Poles one always ought to save. Determined supporters of using credit and deposits comprise 25% of society. The next 11% are determined supporters of saving but they are indifferent towards going into debt. One fourth of respondents do not have anything against getting into debt but save only when it is not connected with sacrifices. One out of every hundred persons declared that saving made no sense and was against taking out credit.

Table 1. Opinions of Poles towards the use of credit in 2003
Source: [9]

Factors, which also influence retail-banking development in Poland, are perceptions, convictions, opinions and knowledge about banks. According to public opinion banks are needed, safe, and trustworthy institutions (graph 7). Banks were evaluated on a scale of from one (1) to seven (7), where seven designates a positive score and one designates a negative score. Scores were lower in the case of people who do not use bank services. Using or not using bank services also influences general opinion about how banks work in Poland. In a group of people using bank services during the period from 2000 to 2003, 74% declared having a favorable or very favourable opinion about banks. Among people who do not use bank services 50% indicated a favorable or very favorable opinion of banks.

Graph 7. Opinion about banks among people who use their services and those who are not their clients in 2003
Source: [9]

Knowledge of banks and other institutions influences evaluation of the functioning of these institutions in Poland. Analyse of correspondence reveals that when there is an increase in the level of knowledge about a particular institution there also is an improvement in general opinion about this institution (graph 8). It is worth noticing that banks are the best-known and evaluated financial institutions in Poland.

Graph 8. Knowledge and general evaluation of selected financial institutions in 2003
Source: [9]

Developing a relationship with a bank is influenced by potential sources of fears and anxieties related to the use of bank services (graph 9). Highest risks connected with the use of bank services were revealing the balance of their accounts to tax authorities, sudden increase in interest rate for credit, and sudden decrease in interest rate for deposits. People who do not use bank services perceive the greatest sources of risk from computer system damage, sudden rise in interest rate for credit, and dishonesty of bank board of directors.

Graph 9. Potential sources of fears and anxieties of people using and not using bank services in 2003
Source: [9]

A factor which significantly impacts the development of a retail banks’ market is client satisfaction with the quality of banking services. Services offered and quality of services play an essential role in developing a bank’s reputation when word-of-mouth (friends’ opinions) is one of the main sources of knowledge about bank services offered. People who have already used bank services are prone to widen their spectrum of services used when they are completely satisfied with their bank. Bank services customers in Poland have a good opinion and high satisfaction with services offered. Seventy-two percent of current account owners claim that the value that they receive from their bank is suitable and that they will continue to use their bank’s services in the future. The positive perception of bank services was also confirmed by the high level of bank clients who were very satisfied (33%) or quite satisfied (61%), (graph 10).

Conviction of complete satisfaction with bank services dominated the opinion of owners of current accounts. More than one half of these people would willingly recommend a bank to a friend or members of their family. By analogy, owners of current accounts do not agree with an opinion that they experience frequent difficulties and inconveniences with their bank service. They also do not agree with a statement that it is unlikely that they will not use bank services in the future. It should be noticed that 48% of owners of current accounts use the services of a particular bank as a result of habit. One in three agreed or completely agreed that as a matter of fact all banks are similar and differences between them are quite small.

Graph 10. Opinion of owners of current accounts about quality of bank services in 2003
Source: [1]

Regarding the high level of satisfaction with bank services it is worth pointing out the main factors which determine this state. Owners of current accounts gave banks especially good marks (average 3.4 on the scale 1-very unsatisfied, 4-very satisfied) for kindness and help from staff in bank branches. Opinions about accessibility to information about their balance and history of their accounts received a high mark (average mark 3.3). Another aspect of banking services, which received a favorable opinion was the efficiency of doing business in banks’ branches. Formalities and requirements during opening and using an account, service by internet, WAP (wireless application protocol) or telephone also contributed to the high level of satisfaction with a bank’s services. Owners of current accounts were less satisfied with charges collected by a bank, interest rate of credit within an account and interest rate of money deposited in an account. Dissatisfaction with the interest rate paid on an account should not be a surprise because there is still the perception that a current account is also a savings product.

Poles’ contacts with banks do not always proceed as planned as common problems are encountered by people who use banks. Often minor problems with bank services can considerably lower perceived bank service quality. In January 2005, almost half (46%) of the people using banks reported that they had to wait for a service in a bank for more than 15 minutes. Almost one out of every three bank clients (32%) was not able to get money out of a cash machine because of a damaged machine. One out of every five (18%) had difficulties with understanding the rules of bank services. Because of damage, 15% of bank clients were not able to pay with a debit card and 14% paid more for a service than they had expected. Slightly more than one out of every ten (12%) clients experienced rudeness from bank workers and 11% felt like an unwanted customer. In addition to the bank “offences” listed above, less common conflicts like refusal of credit, communication problems with banks, and unprompted money transfers have a large impact on customer perceptions of bank service quality and accessibility.

Graph 11. Accessibility to bank services compared to one year prior (Is it easier and faster to use banking services and products now than last year?)
Source: [1]

An important component of opinion about banks is accessibility and ease of use of bank services. Bureaucracy, unclear regulations, queues and unfavourable rules in agreements significantly limit easy and speedy access to bank services and lower the desire to patronize banks. Attempting to maximize “amicability” of banking services is getting more and more important. However, in evaluating these aspects of banks’ work Poles perceive an improvement. Today (Jan 2005) two thirds of the population claim that compared to one year ago, use of bank services is easier and faster (13% definitely yes, 54% rather yes).


According to this analysis it can be concluded that for about one half of the group of people not using bank services it is possible to overcome the main obstacles in the market development of retail banking. However, it is necessary to stress the need for education and creation of the need to use financial institutions’ services for this group. Regarding another group of people not using bank services, overcoming lack of accessibility will be quite difficult and it is possible that these people will be embraced by a phenomenon of financial exclusion because of a shortage of income.

Access to financial services should not be treated as a privilege for households with higher and medium incomes. Financial service for even the lowest paid households can be a viable activity, bringing benefits to people operating both on the side of demand and supply. This creates the inspiration to look for an efficient method of providing access to financial services to the poorest members of society through formation of new opportunities for meeting their consumer needs and vocational and production activity. As a matter of fact, it is the only way of providing bank services to the poorest households on a massive scale, suitable to meet demand. A conclusion substantiated by the experiences of developing countries is that the number of marginal households not served by a bank system is acknowledged as extremely small.


  1. Audyt Bankowsci Detalicznej 2003. (Audit of retail banking 2003) Pentor Institute for Opinion and Market Research, Warsaw.

  2. Daszkowska M., Senyszyn J.1994: Elementy teorii konsumpcji. [Elements of the theory of consumption.] Uniwersytet Gdański Gdańsk [in Polish].

  3. Kłopocka A. 2004: Psychospołeczne uwarunkowania rozwoju bankowosci detalicznej w Polsce. [Psychosocial determinants of retail banking development in Poland.] Bank i Kredyt 05.2004 Warszawa [in Polish].

  4. Koniunktura Konsumencka 12.2003 (Consumer situation 12.2003) GUS Warszawa.

  5. Monitor Bankowy 10. 2003 [Bank Monitor 10.2003] Pentor Warszawa [in Polish].

  6. Roland Berger Strategy Consultans 2003 w Rzeczpospolita 30.09.2003 [in Polish].

  7. Rytelewska G. 2002: Mikrofinanse – wyzwanie wobec bankowosci detalicznej. Maszynopis wystąpienia [Microfinance – a challenge to retail banking. The typescript of the speech] 10. 2002. Katowice [in Polish].

  8. Smiłowski E. 2004: Polacy wobec polskiego sektora bankowego. Maszynopis wystąpienia. [Poles towards the Polish bank sector] Związek Banków Polskich 29.06.2004 [in Polish].

  9. Statistical Indicators Benchmarking the Information Society (SIBIS) data 2003 - http://www.sibis-eu.org/

*The set of services included in the minimum is not constant. As life-style changes, wealth increases and living standards improve, services which previously satisfied high-level needs transform into basic services.
Marcin Idzik
Department of Agricultural Economics and International Economic Relations,
Warsaw Agricultural University, Poland
166 Nowoursynowska Street, 02-787 Warsaw, Poland
email: midzik@pentor.com.pl

Responses to this article, comments are invited and should be submitted within three months of the publication of the article. If accepted for publication, they will be published in the chapter headed 'Discussions' and hyperlinked to the article.