Most people have heard about the problems at the Co-operative Bank.
Late in 2013 its then owner The Co-operative Group (which runs the supermarkets, funerals, insurance and other businesses) announced that because of massive losses at the bank, a "recapitlisation" would be needed that would leave the Group with a minority stake in the bank. The remaining 80% is now owned by private investors, including hedge funds - notorious for their ruthless approach to investment and business.
To add to the woes at the bank, the scandal surrounding the drug habits of former chair Paul Flowers reinforced the impression that it is hypocrisy for the bank to claim to be ethical and different from other banks.
Many customers have been asking “should I move my money out of the Co-op?”. Some already have.
The Save Our Bank campaign - backed by Ethical Consumer magazine - believes that there is still a lot worth saving at the Co-operative Bank and that now is not the right time to move. Instead we are campaigning, alongside other organisations and individual account holders for two things: to preserve the bank’s world-leading ethical policy and to return the bank to majority co-operative control as soon as possible.
We believe that we are strong if we are organised.
If we leave the bank one by one then there is no chance of making it into the sort of bank we want. If we are organised and work with others - like Unite the Union - who share our aspirations, then we can have a real influence.
We showed this when the bank decided to 'refresh' its ethical policy by asking customers what they want. We pressed for and got a commitment not to use this as an opportunity to water down the policy. Now we have a stronger policy than before.
Ethical Consumer editor Rob Harrison said of the recapitalisation: ‘The bank’s new owners need to understand that if the bank abandons its ethical principles then millions of customers will abandon the bank. If this happens the Co-op is dead in the water and their investment will be worthless.’
That’s why we are asking all Co-op bank customers not to switch and to sign up to our campaign.