Open Forum

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Save Our Bank Team

Comments

I would like to know exactly WHY the necessary action to prevent the gradual purchase of OUR bank by US hedge funds was not taken sooner! This recent action has been taken far too late to be effective enough. Why were we not told sooner and why was this creeping acquisition allowed to take hold before any of us knew about it?

Look what happened to RBS - the public never got their money back from the Government and RBS is now gloating over their massive profits while people who put money in to bail out the bank were hung out to dry!

This really is a case of shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted!

Disappointed Member and Bank Customer!

 

Many campaign supporters have the same questions. The Co-op Group has commissioned an enquiry chaired by Sir Christopher Kelly. He is asking for input here. Campaign supporters may want to make a contribution.

The SaveOurBank campaign is mainly concerned on how we can influence what happens next.

 

The 'Hedge Fund' deal should never have been approved. It's an attempt by Coop bankers to hang on to their power and money. The bank should have been declared insolvent and taken into public ownership. The Bank of England can run the same QE 'cash for trash' swap that they've offered Barlclays and RBS.

The entire existing board could then be sacked, and the bank run as a public utility.

Due to this take over I will be switching to coventry building society as they appear to have a much better ethical standing and yet still a big enough customer base to support me living up north

I dont trust the hedge funders and will not support them.

Save Our Bank urges customers not to switch yet because we think it is possible to return the bank to majority co-operative control. We'd point out:

  • That none of the hedge funds has more than 10%. Their combined stake is a minority stake.
  • That the hedge funds will want to exit - that's their business model.

I fear that the hedge funds will have an asset-stripping spree before they exit. Isn't that what they are about?

They are usually about short term profit. Asset stripping is one way to do that. However, they do not hjave a majority even collectively. At least not at the moment.

Aurelius - the hedge fund with the biggest stake - has already sold.

 

Just a quick one - Quantitative Easing doesn't actually cost the taxpayer a penny. It doesn't appear as part of the Defict or public sector borrowing requirement. The govt simply creates its own money and provides it to the banks. The govt/treasury could fund public services in precisely the same way, but refuse to do so. Our politicians prefer to subject the population to the discipline of the financial markets, but the banks get a free ride and access to the printing press.

Not to say that QE doesn't cause problems (it reinforces class power, etc), or that we should bail out senior bondholders at all, but there's no direct cost in QE.

Incidentally, all non-convertible, free floating, fiat money is constructed in much the same way. There's nothing 'backing up' money. It's simply a vast, book keeping spreadsheet. So, If you pay your taxes in cash, that money is shredded, not given to the NHS or Dept of work and pensions.

All of this has been covered in detail by Modern Monetary Theory.

 

I think the collapse of the Co-op Bank was deliberately engineered. Ethical companies are not wanted in the global neo-liberal world we now live in

For a long time I thought the Coop Bank had escaped the worst excesses of the crash because it is allegedly more ethical.  I realise that no bank would be immune from these excesses as they are tied into a global financial network.  To what extent, therefore, is the financial problem of the Coop bank the knock-on effect of the crash and to what extent the result of poor decision-making?  In case of the latter, are decision-makers held accoountable, and in what way?

 

I would rather store my money under a matress than hand half a percent over to a hedge fund.

 

 

The Brussels branch of the Co-operative Party justb wrote to party HQ to suggest that co-operative banking - which is very strong in Europe - should be seen in a broader and more optimistic perspective:

http://cooperatoby.wordpress.com/2013/11/07/co-operative-bank-%E2%89%A0-co-operative-banking/

Fix the system that caused this to happen; combine the end of bank-created money supply with a rescue of the Coop Bank using the first UK public-created electronic money (not counting QE). Bank-created money needs to end anyhow, since governments have no other way to escape the growing mountain of debt they (and us) live under. See www.positivemoney.org or http://blindspot.org.uk/seventh-policy-switch/

Sad that as a long standing customer that the only communication we get is via the public media - there needs to be seom direct communication and accountability to us about what went wrong and the plans to change.

As a  Coop member and bank customer for over 30 years I was massively disheartened at what has happened to the bank. I suggest we don't waste efforts in this campaign in calling for enquiries and for those who were in charge to admit their failings and be held accountable. Others will do that. Rather we must focus on maintainng the ethical stance of the bank and its primary aim of serving the wider cooperative movement ( which was why it was founded in the first place).

I am staying a customer of both the bank and the former Britannia for 2 reasons:

1. 30% is better than nothing. With any other high street bank 100% of the profits go to shareholders.

2. We should work to increase that share over time to above 50%. Nationalisation is not a viable alternative. A coalition government would privatise it as soon as possible.

 

Speak French? Take a look at:

http://www.newb.coop/fr/default.aspx

Thanks to Toby J.

 

It is nonsense to even discuss ways of retaining an ethical policy. If any part of the Co-operative bank is in the hands of Hedge Funders then forget ethical policy.

 

 

I am as disenchanted with senior management, as a lot of our correspondents are.

However we should not forget the thousands of Coop Bank employees who have, on the whole, given excellent service, and who face the possibiltiy of unemployment.

I feel we shoujld stay with the Bank and put up a fight, to try and maintain the ethical standards which propelled us to the Bank in the first instance.

 

 

Like many other people, I feel betrayed.

However I intend to stick with the Coop. One major reason is that while the present predicament is the result of senior management hubris, the people who will suffer if we all moved our accounts will be the hundreds of employees, who have always given us good service. As it is, we know that a number of jobs will be lost. I would hate to add to this.

I also feel that at some stage we have to take a stand and fight. As one correspondent has pointed out, 30 % is better than nothing. Let us add whatever weight we can to the 30 % and see if we can make a change.

 

My preference is for some of the bank staff to become staff co-ops, if possible.

Just been blogging on http://www.employees.org.uk/hustings#13.11.13 about what I would do if I ran co-op bank.

I typed a summery below but realised that maybe it's destracting and tiring for anyone to read conflicting opinions and feel a need to reply. If you're more interested in other things on the forum and don't want to get drawn-into this, please look away now!

OK if you really don't mind reading some stranger's ideas and really don't feel a need to reply - except by posting better ideas - I hope I can post.

I would try to find the best business finance brokers and offer them vacant office space in Co-Op branches, because banks are where customers traditionally seek business loan. Not an obscure P2P lending site or a broker with a stall at a Business Finance trade show. With luck, some of these brokers could take-on Co-Op managers to save redundancy pay. They could work from home and get referrals from home, if that proved better than sitting in a bank branch. There is a very slow-to-download and advert-ridden video of a commercial finance broker explaining his job on
http://www.justin.tv/thincats/b/477510807

If I could find a way of linking a Co-Op savings product with the performance of P2P loans, that would be good as well, because savers, like borrowers, traditionally check what their bank can offer. So I would be directing savers and borrowers towards the same sites, using finance brokers that I don't have to pay, and I wouldn't be making any money out of it but it's still better than loosing money.

I suppose I would try to turn the retail banking part of the business into a staff co-op like John Lewis, because I think staff co-ops work. None such exists. How to get to that point from a 30% controlling stake in an obscure de-listed PLC is above my head: maybe there is a way. And if a bank branch is half-open, with the sign still above the door, I don't know what I would do about someone coming-in to cash a check. So: out of my depth on the first day in post.

That leaves another problem: what is a bank branch for? If they don't have a purpose, maybe they can be converted into hot-desking places - somewhere like a reference library with a coffee machine where people can rent somewhere to work. What to do about the customers who still come-in wanting to cash a cheque is a problem. So I am out of my depth already on the first day in the job.

Some personal thoughts (unpublished) sent to a newspaper last month

In brief I share the view that  ownership matters as much as the ethical policy - one gives credence to the other (and not being beholden to increase dividends/share value, can be a good thing.)

The Co-op's loss of (de facto) mutual status and Co-option by hedge funds is not just about bad investment/expansion decisions - basic Co-operative principles have been betrayed. The ownership of the bank should never have been risked in the first place even if the deal had turned out profitable - its that simple. Or would be if I didn't feel the need to add apathy to betrayal - were members of the Co-operatve group apathetic about holding on to the prized asset of the bank (which lest it be forgotten waa targeted by self styled carpetbaggers/demutualisation attempts not that long ago.) Could members have elected more active supporters of mutuality and the ethical policy through the ranks ....? 

27 Oct 2013

Like other long term customers of the Co-operative Bank, I have felt befuddled by the bank’s sudden change of ownership and have signed up to Ethical Consumer’s campaign to show support for returning the bank to mutual ownership.

Befuddled because the last thing I signed up for when I became a Co-op Bank account holder in 1989 was that it should end up being majority owned by hedge fund led shareholders.  After all, this was a bank which was created and 100% owned by the mutually owned Co-operative group.

Whilst most of its current profile arises due to the popularity and growth it has experienced since the announcement of its famed ethical policy in 1992, the Co-operative Bank’s values go back far deeper to its origins in the 1870s as part of the Co-operative Wholesale Society (CWS.) These in turn, can along with its Manchester headquarters, be traced to the roots of the Cooperative movement among Robert Owen and the Rochdale Pioneers.

The Co-op Bank’s values were explicit even before the announcement of its ethical policy, as can be seen by its popularity with Labour led local authorities, a legacy of the fact that the wider Co-operative movement has its own political party allied to Labour and is a significant shareholder in the trade union movement owned Unity Trust Bank. I still recall as a student in the 1980s, how at a time when other banks were offering ten pound freebies or at best a £12 Rail Card, the Co-op Bank scooped the lot by offering to donate £25 to the Band Aid Trust.

The sequence of events which has resulted in the loss of mutual ownership can be ascribed to an ABC of apathy, betrayal and co-option. Of these, the Co-option of the Co-operative Bank’s assets by hedge fund led capitalists is the simplest bit to explain. They were invited in and are legally entitled to enforce ownership claims in the light of the bank’s losses following its failed growth strategy.

But the apathy and betrayal is harder to understand and explains the feeling of befuddlement felt by many long term customers and Co-operative group members such as myself.

How a bank owned by a group which by definition subscribes to the Co-operative Principles (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rochdale_Principles) of Democratic member control, Autonomy and Independence and limitations on member compensation, can end up risking its assets on such a large scale to the interests of hedge fund holders,  is beyond me.

There can be no excuse for the Bank’s senior management in not understanding how integral mutuality and ethics have been to the Co-op Bank’s growth since 1992. Particularly since the troika of the growing demutualisation of other institutions, the lack of trust in big banks caused by the financial crisis and the worldwide growth in the adoption of ethical and responsible investment principles has increasingly highlighted the importance of these values to the bank.

That the Bank should have still risked its mutual status in the light of such factors is strange indeed. As someone who in a past role worked with an organisation advising the Co-op Bank on the day to day implementation of its ethical policy, I know firsthand that it goes to strenuous lengths to investigate and ensure that its deals and loans for account holders comply not just with its stated ethical principles, but guard against wider risks to reputation. Had such care been placed on its deals with hedge funds, I do not think that the Bank’s mutual status would have been lost today. Yet, it appears that to a few in the Bank, the growth and profits brought by the success of its Ethical policy in attracting and retaining customers, was not seen as so integral to the Bank’s purpose.

It is self evident that by risking the bank’s assets to non-mutual owners in order to pursue an over ambitious growth strategy, the senior management and others responsible for the governance of the Bank placed its mutual status in jeopardy. And from the point of view of customers who value its mutual status like myself, the worst has now come to pass, with the mutual Co-operative Group becoming a minority shareholder in the bank that bears its name.This was not supposed to happen. While the demutualisation of building societies like Abbey National and Halifax was encouraged by the Conservative government in the 1980s and the trend saw no let up with mutual institutions like Standard Life going the same way under Labour, the Co-op Bank always felt more protected.

Whilst the Co-operative Group of the 1990s was not the leviathan of the 1950s delivering milk and ‘divis’ to households across the land, its ownership of the bank appeared to give the Bank protection.  This was seen in the 1990s when there was successful large scale resistance to the campaign led by Andrew Regan to demutualise CWS. The fact that the relatively rapid growth of profits by the Co-op Bank compared to other parts of the Co-operative movement during the 1990s was partly attributable to the success of its ethical policy was one of the persuasive factors in securing support to resist the demutualisation of CWS.

Despite the memory of such a recent battle against carpet baggers and the even more recent litany of financial scandals in the past decade from Enron to the Global financial crisis of 2007-08, the seeming willingness of the Co-op Bank’s leaders to gamble its mutual status with hedge funds in the past five years, can only be seen as a betrayal of member interests and basic co-operative principles.

We will perhaps only know the true story with the help of inquiries and whistleblowers from inside the institution. In the meantime, it needs to be highlighted that the nature of ownership matters to many people; this is one of the reasons why the employee owned John Lewis Partnership (which has more successfully engaged in bond deals with external financiers) is so widely popular and why some Islamic investors may look askance at the sharia compliant services offered by the likes of HSBC, as they disagree with the wider group/owner.

I do have to wonder though, could I have been a more active consumer.  Could more Bank customers have joined one of the myriad committees forming part of the labyrinthine structure that governs the Co-operative Group, in order to safeguard the Bank’s interests?

Or would it have done no good, as aided and abetted by the peer pressure of advisers and competitors, Board members and senior management would have still lost sight of the core principle of mutuality, in pursuit of growth?

Many Co-op Bank customers will thus not be comforted by assurances that their money is safe or that the ethical policy will still be followed and this is why I have signed up to Ethical Consumers campaign, even though my funds are limited and I am now living in Bangladesh  (where the mutually owned Grameen Bank faces an even bigger challenge as the Government pursues a campaign to take control of its assets – but that’s another ethical story folks.)

I have been a customer of the Co-op Bank for 18 years and I was very upset to find out in the media that the take over of the Britannia BS happened without the Co-op Bank knowing how much debt Britannia had leading to the disaster we have now. Who was responsible for this?

Also I was dumbfounded to hear again in the media that the Co-op Bank had been taken over by two US hedge funds. Why weren't customers made aware much sooner of the desperate situation and given an opportunity to invest in the bank or come up with an alternative solution or at the very least vote on solutions put forward?

The issues in the media about the ex chairman are secondary to me. Although he seems a ridiculous person to have been chairman of the Co-op Bank and someone (+ FSA?) should take responsibility for that. However the most important thing for me is the issue of the hedge funds. Me and my husband will give the Coop Bank six months to come up with a firm plan for re-mutualisation otherwise we will move our accounts elsewhere.

Len Wardle, the Co-op Group Chairman is the latest board member to feel the need to resign.
 
Previously both the Co-op Group board and Co-op Banking board are to be congratulated for their ethical and responsible action in ensuring that the Co-op's leading brand insurance and asset management businesses were only sold to a mutually owned financial institution namely, Royal London and thus establishing this vital precedent for any further sale of Co-op Banking Group assets that may be or become necessary.
 
However the Co-op Banking Group board are NOT currently making any commitment to protect the mutual status of the Co-op Banking Group’s remaining assets but instead are now clearly acting in the best interests of the Hedge “Vulture” Funds, which are in the process of a hostile take-over in order to asset strip.
 
The only way the Co-op members can understand what is actually going on in the bank they still own is through explicit, official written statements with complete clarity, transparency, honesty and openness being officially published.  
 
The continuous gap between what is spun by the Co-op boards and/or the hedge funds in the media and at Co-op member meetings compared with what is actually written in official Co-op Bank documents such as the carefully worded recapitalisation plan is the most damning aspect. The need for total transparency is both in the Co-op's core principles and essential to responsibly managing a bank.

Co-op members and others say time and again that Co-op members need to take more responsibility for the Co-op Banking Group.  However the reporting of vital Co-op Banking information, facts and figures to Co-op members lacks clarity, transparency, honesty and openness.
 
The stark truth appears to be that the Co-op Group board are only able to stop the hedge "vulture" funds from asset stripping the Co-op Banking Group through the UK government's official Bank of England resolution process
 
The Co-op Group board, the Co-op Banking Group board; hedge "vulture" funds; retail investors; investment banks; and/or any other predators as well as the Bank of England's Special Resolution Unit and the UK government should all trust that the Occupy movement together with other groups shall campaign vigorously and recommend that all Co-op Bank account holders, including customers from the "Smile" online bank, switch their Co-op Bank accounts to a mutually owned UK bank such as the Nationwide if any attempt at selling Co-op Bank assets to a non-mutual and/or non-UK organisation is made and/or any form of asset stripping is attempted and/or any non-mutual and/or non-UK organisations own any equity in the Co-op Bank Group whatsoever.
 
Therefore the time has finally run out for the Co-op Banking Group and the time has come for the Co-op Group board to finally pull the plug on the Co-op Banking Group board and call in the Bank of England’s Special Resolution Unit immediately.

The Co-operative Group has repeatedly stated that one of its primary aims is to avoid resolution (Bank of England intervention), partly because of the knock on effects it says this would have on the Group.

Whoever ends up owning the bank in the next weeks, the SaveOurBank campaign will continue to press for its two main aims: real workable guarantees that the ethical policies will be applied, and an eventual return to majority co-operative control.

I was excited to click the link on my fb page but when I arrived I did not find any clear and concise steps on how to make this happen. This needs to happen ASAP and with a counter showing the individuals supporting this as well as the financial pledges, e.g. 38 Degrees...

I agree that it is disappointing that there seem to be lots of fine words from the organisers of this campaign but, so far, no action.

When Portsmouth Football Club found itself in a similar crisis recently, the Pompey Supporters Trust asked us to pledge to buy shares at £1000 each, and to send £100 as an advance, which went into an "escrow" account. This account was used to finance the legal and publicity costs entailed in organising their bid to buy the club on our behalf. In the event of the bid failing, the balance of this escrow account would be returned to the fans. But it didn't fail. The strategy worked and the campaign was successful - Pompey is now safe in the hands of its fans, and is the biggest community-owned club in British footballing history.

Although a bank is quite a different animal from a football club, there are important parallels here which make me think that similar strategy could work for the Co-op Bank. Not the least of these parallels is the fact that both Pompey and the Co-op Bank have legions of passionate supporters to whom they are much more than mere profit-making businesses.

It is clear to me that if the bank is to be saved, it's no use hoping for some shiny knight on a white horse to come along and do it for us. We, its customers, will have to put our own money on the line and do it ourselves. I'm sure it could be done, if the organisers of this campaign were to take the initiative.  Whereas Pompey's fan base is measured in thousands, the Co-op's customer base is measured in millions!

For the record, if the Save Our Bank Campaign prepares a bid to buy the majority of the bank back off the hedge funds, then I will pledge £1000 towards it, and I am willing to provide £100 up-front towards legal and publicity costs associated with the bid, on the same basis as I did when we bought Pompey.

Play up Pompey... and long live the Co-op Bank!

Hypothetically, if 7 million Co-op members put in an average of 215 pounds each, we could cover a debt of 1.5 billion. It's unfair to members, yes, particularly those on low incomes, but it could save the integrity of the bank. 

There are two things wrong with that £215 calculation. Firstly, for several very obvious reasons, imposing a compulsory levy on all Co-operative Group members is complete non-starter. Secondly, we wouldn't need to raise anything like 1.5 billion. We only need to raise enough to buy 21% of the bank, not all of it. (30% + 21% = 51% = a majority). We would have to set up a new organisation to buy that 21%, separate from the Co-operative Group, ("the Co-op Bank Customers Union", perhaps). This organisation would raise the money by selling shares to Co-op Bank customers, in exactly the same way that the Pompey Supporters Trust sold shares to Pompey fans. Co-op Bank customers can be just as passionate about their bank as any football fans are about their club. The Pompey Supporters Trust successfully harnessed that passion and turned it into the hard cash needed to save the club from the circling vultures. I don't see why the same can't be done at the Co-op Bank. And I don't see anything undignified in it.

I have always been more sceptical of the ethical claims of Coop Finance than many.

Why - as a member of the Coop and a customer of the Bank have I not been asked to vote ofn the future. Surely that should be at the heart of any Cooperative Movement The Cooperative Bank has never been a proper cooperative - perhaps some-one should have challenged its right to the name long ago.

Yes - why were we not invited to put in funds to help rescue the bank? The current vote (for those allowed a vote) is a farce when those voting are told - vote 'YES' - or loose everything.

I have been robbed of my 'DIVI' vouchers this year because of the mis-deeds of our Boards - the whole lot should resign in disgrace - and with NO severance pay or even bronze goodbyes.

The whole Coop Finance Group shows no better ethics than other insurers which is why over the last few years my car insurance was moved away and this year my home insurance; both times because of ridiculous price increases and then demands that I prove I could get better cover elsewhere at lower price. Frankly I played that game too often but got fed up and decided if I had to invest my time - and that of competitors - proving I could get better cover then it made more sense to take up the alternative cover, Surely, the Co-op of all groups should offer the best terms to loyal customers rather than the silly wasteful of everyone's time of offering best terms to new customers who move their accounts every few years to get the best price - a practice which seems to be actively encouraged by large chunks of the Finance Sector including Coop Finance.

If the Hedge Fund solution goes ahead then my account may be another to leave.

Where is my vote?

Re:Messages from Eva Schlunke, Graham,N.

I feel that it is about time Coop members took positive steps.

Eva Schlunke's comment was that if each member contributed £215 that would cover the shortfall, with the rider that this could be unfair particularly to those on lower incomes.

Graham,N. has pledged £1000 + £100 towards legal costs.

I am prepared to pledge £2150 + £100 towards costs. I am in the fortunate position of having retired with a pension more than adequate to my needs and I feel this would be a worthwhile way of investing some of it.

Thank you, Graham,N.

 

I am with you on this. My offer of £ 2150 + 100 still stands.

 

I do not think Eva Schlunke was thinking of a compulsory levy. Perhaps the idea was one of mutual co-operation. I am sure a lot of members would find it difficult. I think I would have, while I was still wotking , without a clear idea of what retirement implied. However if even a small percentage ( say 10 % ) of members could  make a pledge, we could manage it.

I'm sure it comes as no surprise to any of us that at the root of this crisis is the failure of the Co-op Group hierarchy to live up to the co-operative ideal. But going over those failings doesn't really get us anywhere. We are where we are, and we need to work out where best to go from here. Thank you for your positive comments, Dr Subbuswamy.

Maybe you could return fully to the principles of mutuality – if it works so spectacularly for John Lewis there is surely a lesson to be learned.

Maybe the ‘bosses’ should consider returning any bonuses, accept a cut in salary, and do whatever is needed to restore faith, however apparently small.  

Maybe in future you should remember that the majority of your shareholders are ‘little people’ who have comparatively very little.

Maybe all of the directors should step down.  They have let down the little people whose lot they are supposed to improve

Maybe you should remember that when once roused, even the English will change their mind – and at present this is probably more likely to go against you than for you.

I want to support the Co-operative movement – it provided several of my parents’ generation with a trade and a living.  

I want to support the Co-operative movement – the philosophy is sound.

I want to support the Co-operative movement – it is a corner store, yet so much more. (New strapline....)

You have not made it worth-while.

And in that wonderful Northern expression, ‘ Fine words butter no parsnips’.  Your actions will speak far louder than any words.

Although not 'traditional' Co-op members, my wife and I have banked with 'smile' for some years, have several insurance policies through the Co-op, frequently use its food stores, and occasional other services, and have generally been happy with the service and products. BUT NO MORE!

1. With the state the bank is in, we are no longer prepared to trust significant amounts of our finances to it so will be moving most of our money elsewhere even if keeping the account open for the time being.

2. Over the past 9 months, our credit and debit cards have all expired and been replaced by new 'Contactless' cards. When we have telephoned to say that we do not want 'Contactless' cards and have asked for them to be replaced by 'non-Contactless' cards, we have effectively been told "Tough! Like it or lump it!" Earlier this year we were told that lots of customers had complained about having no choice, and that they might reconsider the position. But 6 months' later (when we got the second lot of new cards), the position was the same. Consequently our new cards do not leave the house, we use them only online, and use another bank which does give us a choice. And they claim to give good customer service! We are certainly no longer 'smiling'!

3. I have also been surprised to learn how much money from the Co-op goes to the Labour Party and it's MPs - a party for whom I have never voted, and am extremely unlikely ever to do so. I appreciate that that is where the Group's origins lie, but one might have thought that as the Group expanded into other parts of the country where people are not overwhelmingly Labour supporters, and as the Group claims to be a mutual and to be 'run by its members', then any political donations might reflect its members choices and politics. But no - it appears to have little concern about its members and to be reverting to little more than a branch of the Labour Party, with its cronies, such as Mr Flowers, being appointed to positions for which they have no experieince and losing all the profit.

Finally, the whole Group clearly now has few ethics left, is not a proper co-operative, nor a mutual. In those circumstances, personally I see no point either in trying to save the bank nor in continuing to support the Group.

Save Our Bank campaign urges customers not to switch yet because together we can ensure the bank keeps to its principles. We can also change it for the better.

Under the recapitalisation plan the bank will be majority owned by private investors and Save Our Bank wants to see it return to majority co-operative ownership.

The Co-operative Group remains member owned and controlled. The board of the group is indirectly elected by members (members elect people who elect the board). Decisions about issues such as funding for the Co-operative Party are taken by this structure. Many co-op members believe the system of committees and elections could be improved.

Save Our Bank seeks meaningful majority co-operative ownership, where customers and members have real influence. At the moment the best chance of achieving that is for customers to stick with the bank and for members to agitate for change.

It is very difficult to avoid the conclusion that the damage has been irreversibly done to the Co-Op, by the management trying to over-leverage the company. Co-op used to have my business as a matter of course. I am now forced to consider others. Ethical Consumer website is very enlightening on the alternatives. My mortgage isn't due for renewal for another two years, but I am not optimistic about the prospects of leaving it with the Co-op with a clear conscience. If I leave, it will be with a heavy heart. Those responsible have destroyed the best example of ethical mutualism in the country, and restoring the balance sheet will not resurect the company in it's loyal members eyes.

In the latest campaign e-mail, I noticed the bit about 'potential for a mass switch'. Totally agree, as something like 80% of survey respondents said they would leave if needs be.

I've been with the Co-op my entire banking life, as my Dad has also been a long-standing Co-op customer. He has just moved to Nationwide because of what's happened.

I went looking for other options, not just for me, but as a Charity Consultant I have always steered clients towards the Co-operative Community DirectPlus account due to its £1mil free banking and Post Office banking facilities, plus its ethical check-list.

I wanted to know what other options best matched my personal and charity banking requirements. The two banks that always spring to mind for ethical banking are Triodos and Charity Bank, but neither of them seem to have noticed the wide open opportunity to advertise to a captive market. Perhaps they just don't have the capacity to do so?

But, yes, I would be extremely interested in knowing alternatives to the DirectPlus and personal accounts. Just a really simple page that shows how other accounts compare ethically and in terms of rates, to cut down on the time and confusion involved in trawling small print across websites.

I'm not about to leave yet, but I fear it might not be long before I have to. I assume the hedge funds will strip any assets left, then invest them in the arms trade and Monsanto.

Until then, keep up the good work, guys, and do try to consolidate the various campaigns into one unified voice of dissent. I don't think there are many banks people feel this passionately about defending.

If it's not owned by the members, it's NOT a Co-operative (whether or not it has an ethical policy).

100% membership owned or I am out.

I have been a Co-op bankee for over 30 years for the obvious reasons. I really would like to see a strong customer determination of the future direction of the bank. In other words, if we can all agree the basic principles of what we want from the Co-op Bank (part ownership by hedge funds does not come within the principles for me in any circumstances) then we should ask the bank to implement those principles and stick with it. If not, we should take our principles eslewhere and upgrade another mutual. An expression of customer power may well send a clear message to other banks and insititutions. If it means the Co-op Bank going to the wall, well, tough luck, the management are the authors of the present calamity not the customers.

I have been a Coop Bank customer for many years before that I was customer of the Abbey National why?  Because my grandfather, grandmother and parents were were all keen cooperators there was not a branch of the coop bank near where we lived at the time so my father being a strong believer in mutuality used the Abbey National he encouraged me to do likewise when I decided to marry in the late 50s and wanted to buy a house, banking with AN gave me better opportunity of getting a mortgage.  

In the 90s when de-mutualisation was encouraged by the government of the day,  I had moved to the town I now live in which had a Coop Bank Branch, as I voted against de-mutualisation I switched to the Coop.  I am an active member of my local coop and coop party, I also buy all my insurances through the Coop I have used their financial advice service ect.  So it came as a big shock to me that the Coop Bank is not in fact a fully mutual member controlled society why I asked ? 

Answer,  because in the UK all banks have to be Public Limited Companies where the law differs to most if not all countries in the world.  In Europe,  the Americas including USA, in far east including Australia, New Zealand and in India and most other Asian countries normal Cooperative mutualisation laws recognised by the United Nations and the IMF apply, all customers are offered full membership with voting rights, This should apply in the country where Cooperatives were born.

So in 2015 we have to get the next government which hopefully will contain a large number of Cooperative Party / Labour Party Members who will change the the Law to bring it into line with the rest of the world and not be the play thing of the City who would obviously like all coops de-mutualised so they could get their greedy hands on all the assets built up by generations of our ancestors.

So can we make this a major plank in our campaign because, campaign we must, we have to be true to our ancestral heritage.   

    

     

 

 

So much backward a looking negativity.  Yes, it's a mess, but let's wipe our shoes and look ahead., find ways of creating cooperative action that will convince hedge funds we are serious about leaving en masse if necessary.  And thank you, Ethical Consumer for setting all this going.

 

 

 

 

 

I favour forming a group to buy shares. As you say the hedge funds aren't going to stay for ever, unless the share performance is racing ahead. The trouble is we are limited in what we can do within the law. If we could persuade the board to invest more and making the ethical policy rule investments, rather than big payouts to shareholders, then we can buy in.

I intend to stay with the Co-op Bank because:-

1) 30% owned by the group is better than none.

2) No single private equity comany owns more than 10%. The Co-op is the single biggest shareholder.

3) What is stopping The Co op Group or indivual members from buying shares some time in the future with an aim towards re-mutualisation.

4) Are any of the other banks any better? (The devil you know)

5) The so called experts in the other banks manage to wreck the economy, then needed a massive tax-payer bailout!

Just want to give support to all your efforts to keep the ethical policy, and tell hedge funds etc. to get lost!

Many thanks,

Richard Podger

The appointment of Lord Myners and of the Kelly Inquiry will only be of use if they ease the return of our bank to mutual status. 

A link with the Credit Union movement may be worth pursuing. Many Co-op members will have funds with CUs; funds which could be used to buy back a proportion of shares from Vultures !!

Surely the Co-op group as a whole is worth a huge amount more than the money required to bail the bank out? Isn't there an alternative there already?

As it stands, I am unsure about the kind of bank that will result from the propoesed method of funding and mightl jump this ship.

I would not even contemplate joining a mass exodus. That would give us no influence on the future of the bank.

There is much talk of revew of governance and "right leadership" in the big corporate Coops and mutuals. ( Gosling ,Hunt).  There are some large mutauls that survive but they are near zombies as such, with a very passive membership who harldly engage at all.  It seems that the coterees that control, like it that way and often conflate customers with members, as if these were a near equivilent.  If a reformed governance and leadership of  mutual/coops is to emerge, then an important component might be an more active, informed and interested membership with a culture of stewardship over the "commons' the cooperative and mutual enteprises form, this would be a healthy development.  EC's campaign to rescue something from the shipwreck of the Cooperative Bank might be a beginning .

 The Cooperative Groups holding will be reduced to 30%.  It at first sight might seem that throwing in some £400+ million into a very unsatisfatory minority holding seems hardly worth the candle. Reports seem to indicate that the group has been forced down this path as a bank failure would have led to contagion. At first it was said that the Coop Group hoped to retain a 70% holding but now they are forced into 30% holding.  At 70% holding forming an IPS through which Coop Bank supporters might invested into and act as a mutual trust holding shares in the floated Coop Bank seemed a possibility as a means of liberating the Bank.  Can the same be done at a 30% holding?  This needs study.

It might be an idea to put out an apeal for such a study so that folk can make donations. If this is seen as a viable option, a Mutual Tust Fund can be set up.   Other options might be considered such as converting or going into partnership with another financial mutual as a base for an eventual New Cooperative Bank. Lets us hope that something worthwhile will come out.  Well done EC!

 

 

This is the first comment I've added to this and have only scanned the preceding ones lightly so forgive any repetition.

Like everyone else I'm thoroughly cheesed off by the position we've reached but am for now sticking with the view that holding on and working to rescue something is better than allowing the whole thing to go the wall.  The Nationwide now has some of our funds but the challenge for other potential ethical providers is the extent of current account facilities of the Co-op Bank.

Like a number of other contributors, I'd be ready to contribute to an organised effort of buy shares but it would surely need to be through a new Industrial Provident Society (IPS - the legal term for a co-operative) set up for the purpose?  That implies a group of people ready to step up and form a Board to create the company:  it's not that difficult and there is lots of support available from the wider co-operative movement.  But are the people out there who are ready to do it, remembering that if it were successful they would be managing funds of over £1 billion?  (And then be responsible for bringing appropriate pressure to bear onto the Board of the bank itself about policy issues - ethics being top of the list, but not the only item.)

Finally, now that the deal is done, would it be an appropriate time for a signed statement of intent from the Save Our Bank Movement to the Bank Board?  A sort of petition in reverse - not "Please do this" but "If you do any of these things, we're off."

What things?  Well, any dilution of ethical policies would be the first;  any evidence of inappropriate sales of products; any evidence of inappropriate pressue on staff to meet sales targets;  any introduction of bonuses for senior staff that are not proportional to those of junior staff;  any sign of asset-stripping.   

Best wishes for Christmas

Just wanted to say a big thank you to the organisers. I'm pretty much in line with the position expressed in your emails. I'd be happy to buy shares in the bank and hand over my voting rights to a "Save our Bank" representative (director?) Hopefully the CoOp group would be able to buy back control in the future. I'm also pleased that Paul Myners is involved, he had a really positive effect on the pensions industry.

Well done to all

Bernie

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