Sunday, May 20, 2007

A Personal Perspective on Third Federal Savings and Loan

Not my usual topic. But the PD has been featuring Mark Stefanski, who has been running Third Federal for, they say, about 20 years now. I always think of them as an old fashioned bank; when in fact, they aren't. According to the PD they are the "third largest mutual thrift in the Country."

When I moved back to Cleveland in 1997, I wanted to open a checking account with them. But they didn't allow ATM cards. My 19 years in Washington DC mentality said huh? So I went with another bank. When I questioned the teller at the time, she said 'The Stefanski's believe we are better when we are basically a cash and carry people." Fast forward to my philosophy now, what with the average consumer 30k in debt and foreclosures rampant. There is wisdom in that philosophy. I don't know if they allow ATM cards now, but that teller's comment from 1997 has stuck with me all these years.

I also love the history of the bank. When traditional lenders in Cleveland would not lend to the Eastern Europeans (translate Polish) who came here to work the factories, Ben Stefanski started his own lending institution. I grew up on the outskirts of Slavic Village, and every family I knew, family or otherwise, used Third Fed. I know they made a fortune on mortgage loans to Clevelanders.

When I lived in Boston or St. Louis or Maryland I kept repeating the story of the history of Third Federal, with some pride that entrepreneurship was so successful and beneficial to the early Eastern European community of Cleveland. So here is the link again to the article.

(above is a commissioned bronze of Ben and Gerome Stefanski which sits at the Corporate Headquarters. It was done by one of my clients, the talented Ron Dewey from Light Sculpture Works.) Peace Out - 3C


Christine said...

re: ATMs.... I deliberately chose Third Fed to open my first checking account (at age 18, in 1996) *because* they didn't offer ATM cards, which I thought were a stupid way to get in debt fast (and I still do). so it's interesting to me to hear about your perspective, and how it's changed.

i've opened other accounts with other banks since then, and i always turn down the ATM card. key bank said that "by law" (which was probably a load of crap) they had to give it to me, but i was free to destroy it later if i wanted (which I did). other banks have treated me like i was a total nutjob when i said "no thanks" to the ATM.

of all my friends, only one other has "just said no." and she's the only one with any savings, i think.

Cleveland Carole Cohen 3C said...

I do like the way you think, Christine. And your analysis of friends with and without ATM cards. Thanks for adding your perspective!

Leanne Paynter said...

I, too, have declined an ATM card whenever I've opened a new account over the past 15+ years and, like Christine, the person on the other side of the desk has always looked at me like I'm nuts. I've been doing just fine without an ATM card, thank you.

BTW, I love those kinds of sculptures... somehow they give a town a sense of community and often give a glimpse into it's history.

Cleveland Carole Cohen 3C said...

Wow, that is two young people weighing in, in favor of no ATM card; I'm going to have to do a study, seriously! And it gives me hope, Leanne, that fiscal responsibility may be on the way to being considered sexy again!