Welcome to this newsletter from the Customer Union for Ethical Banking, the independent union for customers of The Co-operative Bank.

In this month’s newsletter: a new video about our crowdfunder; sale rumours at the bank; and the bank’s response on app outages.

Our crowdfunder: share our video and help us raise the last £4,000!

In just a few short weeks, our crowdfunder to fund the next ten years of the Customer Union has raised over £14,000.  This is a great achievement and we’re really pleased with it. So thanks to all those of you who have contributed already.

With just over a month to go, we’ve got just £4,000 left to raise before we hit our target. To help get us over the line we’ve put together a short video to explain our plans for the next ten years to a wider audience. Check it out on our homepage, and please share via LinkedInFacebook and Twitter if you use those platforms! And do consider making a contribution if you’re able to and have not done so already.



More “for sale” rumours

Reuters and other news sources reported this month that the Co-op Bank is in the early stages of considering a sale or initial public share offering (IPO). Reuters said the bank “has been working with advisers at PJT Partners and Fenchurch Advisory to devise ways to create value for its owners…” and that “potential suitors include OneSavings Bank, FirstRand's Aldermore, Paragon and private-equity-backed Shawbrook.” The bank did not comment on the rumours.

At the Customer Union, we have been seeing speculation about a sale of the Co-op Bank pretty much every year since at least 2016. Most of the bank’s owners will want an exit - nothing new or particularly alarming there. We think that the owners will realise that the principal value in the bank is in its distinctive ethical stance, and will know that being careless of this in a sale process (i.e selling to the wrong type of owner) would not be in either the buyer or seller’s financial interest. A sale process could also be an opportunity for the Customer Union to influence the outcome, and an IPO could be a great opportunity for us to begin to build the type of co-operative stake that our ten year plan envisages

Problems with the bank app

The Co-op Bank has been experiencing problems with its mobile banking app in recent weeks, with the Guardian reporting outages on three consecutive Fridays, and the bank admitting an outage lasting several days.

The bank told us some of the background to the outage, and the problems caused - for example where app users were not already registered for on-line banking through the web interface, which remained working. We know these problems will be frustrating for our supporters, and look forward to the situation improving.

The bank’s response on mortgage prisoners and call waiting times

The bank has sent us comments on two issues we have been raising with them on behalf of our members. On mortgage prisoners, the bank said it has “proactively sought ways to assist customers that could be considered as mortgage prisoners, implementing the ability to re-mortgage, subject to eligibility, and in line with our commitments as a responsible lender.”

On call waiting times, it has said: “Over the course of 2022 we have doubled the number of full time employees in our contact centres, both for retail and SME. As a result, by the end of 2022, we were pleased to see significant reductions in our average call wait times across both retail and SME contact centres. [...] We recognise we have more to do, and our focus remains on ensuring we provide customers with the level of service they expect from us.”
See the bank’s statements in full here:

That’s all from us. Please do consider supporting and sharing our crowdfunder before it closes at the end of May.

Thank you for reading and following the work of the Customer Union.

With best wishes,

The Save Our Bank team

Have you joined the Customer Union yet? It costs £15 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.