In Poland, CIT Banker Finds Keen Minds and Big Problems

Like other U.S. financial executives, Debra A. Putzer thought she was going to teach Polish bankers a thing or two when she joined a three-day conference in Warsaw.

Instead, she discovered the Poles had a thing or two to teach her, especially when it came to working one's way out of a financial quagmire.

Media Portrait Is Too Grim

"They're educated, they're very focused, and they bably want to succeed," said Ms. Putzer, vice president for credit finance at CIT Group in New York.

"You don't see that kind of desire here."

Ms. Putzer, 30, found Poland very different from the grim picture usually painted by the U.S. media. "There are tremendous investments, tremendous growth," she said. "They may have a long way to go, but they're definitely on the right road."

Ms. Putzer was one of three experts sent over by the Center for International Management Education, Westport, Conn., an organization dedicated to helping develop free enterprise in formerly Communist countries.

She outlined techniques for collateralized lending, workouts, and liquidations to credit directors of seven of the nine regional banks recently set up by the National Bank of Poland.

The main problem in Poland, she said, is not lack of knowledge or understanding of how a free market works, but making the transition from the theoretical to the practical.

Before the collapse of Communism, she added, the main role of a banker in Poland was to issue loans to companies as the state directed.

Banking Was Clerical Work

"The government said it didn't matter whether they got paid back or not, so it didn't matter," says Ms. Putzer. "Being a banker was almost a clerical position."

At the conference in Poland, Ms. Putzer described the workings of CIT, a commercial finance company that is 60% owned by Dai-Ichi Kangyo Bank of Japan and 40% by Manufacturers Hanover Corp.

She is responsible for half of the company's $300 million New York City loan portfolio, which is made up of secured lines of credit of $2 million to $50 million to small and medium-size companies.

The trip to Poland was Ms. Putzer's first outside the United States and required her to take out her first passport. "So much for the sophisticated banker," she said. The farthest-flung adventure the Queens, N.Y., native had before Warsaw was trout and salmon fishing in Maine.

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