Welcome to this October newsletter from the Customer Union for Ethical Banking, the independent union for customers of The Co-operative Bank.
This is our second newsletter for October, as we are making up for not having sent one in September. This month we focus on our gathering and the bank’s announcement that its Chief Executive of the last 18 months, Andrew Bester, is leaving the bank.
Register for our Gathering online!
Registration is now open for our annual Save Our Bank Gathering, which will be held online via Zoom on the afternoon of Saturday 21st November from 2.30pm. All supporters and Customer Union members are welcome.
We've got a packed agenda. We'll hear from the Co-operative Bank and there will be an opportunity for members and supporters to ask questions. And we'll be asking members of our new expert panel how they see the route to bringing the bank back into cooperative ownership.
Right before the gathering, from 2pm to 2.30pm we’ll hold a formal General Meeting for members of the Customer Union. If you haven't yet joined the union then remember you can join now for a contribution of only £12 a year. If you're not sure whether you are a member or if your membership is up to date then drop us a line at email@example.com
You can register and see the full agenda here. We look forward to seeing you there.
Change at the top, again: Andrew Bester steps down, Nick Slape steps up
The Co-op Bank’s chief executive officer, Andrew Bester, has told the bank’s board that he intends to step down. Andrew joined the bank in 2018 and has overseen the overhaul of the bank's digital platforms.
In the press release issued by the bank, Bester says, "At this point, I believe the bank is on the right path and it is time for a new CEO to continue the journey to be the digital ethical bank". This puts in context the recent closure of 18 branches and it's possible that Mr Bester sees his mission as now accomplished.
Bester’s replacement has already been named as Nick Slape, who joined the bank as its chief financial Officer in 2018, shortly after Bester took up his role. Prior to this he was at Lloyds, where the FT reports (paywall) he also worked with Andrew Bester. Before Lloyds he held senior roles at investment banks including Deutsche Bank and Merrill Lynch.
Slape, who the bank told us will take up his role in the coming weeks, will be the bank’s sixth chief executive in less than nine years. Perhaps his existing working relationship with Bester indicates there will be some continuity despite the change. It also bears noting that all of the bank’s recent chief executives have been male. We think the bank has never had a female chief executive - although it’s not easy to check. Last year, Alison Rose became the first female to head one of the ‘big four’ banks when she was appointed to lead NatWest.
Sky news reported last year that the owners were looking to sell to another bank, although no news on the sale has emerged since then. We hope Nick Slape will continue to emphasise the centrality of the bank’s ethics and co-operative heritage, as Andrew Bester has done, and we hope that if a sale does go ahead, that he will seek a buyer that is able to protect these values.
The bank told us, "It goes without saying that our commitment to supporting the co-operative movement and its principles, and our relationship with the Customer Union, will continue."
Our congratulations to Nick, and all the best to Andrew for the future.
Campaigning with Refuge on domestic abuse
In 2015 the Co-op Bank and Refuge carried out the ‘My money, my life’ campaign, the UK’s largest study to date on economic abuse within intimate partner relationships. This month they followed up the campaign with the release of the ’Know Economic Abuse’ report, which investigates policy developments and trends since then. It finds that this form of abuse remains widespread, with 8.7 million people in the UK reporting experiencing this form of abuse in a relationship. For 1.6 million people, this started during this year’s pandemic related lockdown.
The bank plans to continue its campaigning on this topic in the coming months. At Save Our Bank we want to see the Co-op Bank do more active campaigning for social change on issues related to its ethical policy, at both a global and local level, and we're pleased to see the bank follow up its work in this area.
with best wishes
The Save Our Bank Team
Have you joined the Customer Union yet? It costs £12 a year to be a member of the first ever customer union co-operative, and help us ensure the Co-op Bank sticks to its principles. It only takes a few moments to sign up here.