Don’t switch yet

Many people are worried about what the Co-operative Bank will become now the hedge funds appear to have grabbed a majority share. Especially those who bank with the Co-op because of who it is and what it stands for. Many will have looked at the alternatives – Nationwide, Triodos. If customers quietly leave the hedge funds will plough on regardless. But if we speak as one, just the threat of many people leaving at once will focus minds.

That’s what this campaign is about. Step one is to get ourselves together in one place. This site aims to act as a rallying point.

Over the next few days we’ll be spreading the word using social media. You can help by signing up to join our mailing list and liking us on Facebook.

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31 thoughts on “Don’t switch yet

  1. Annie

    I was just on the point of switching when I read the Guardian article which mentions this campaign. I take the point, haven’t switched and signed up to the campaign – let’s hope it succeeds.

    Reply
  2. Whittingham Sheena

    I am in the same position as Annie, and will wait to switch. Let us indeed hope, but I am pessimistic about influencing US hedge funds

    Reply
  3. Robin

    Information in the Guardian article has helped inform us considerably. We don’t plan to switch yet but loss of the fully ethical stance would compel us to. The campaign needs to succeed; let’s hope, though it shouldn’t have to rely on just hope.

    Reply
  4. Terry Philpot

    I have signed the campaign but am actively considering switching. Alas, I tend to feel that the campaign is too late. Even before the Co-op’s troubles, it was misspelling PPI. More important, why should it listen when there are 1000s of us, as the campaign claims? There are millions of
    customers and not one of us had an email or letter telling us what was happening. I emailed Euan Sutherland, Co-op group chief executive, re that and other issues. (Not least seeking clarification – since confirmed elsewhere – about the massive hand-outs paid to those who left after that got the bank into this mess.) He had his “customer services” people send me a reply which I could have read in the media. I wrote again seeking answers but he has not replied.

    The Kelly Review has been established but to find out about it you have to look under “News and announcements” on the bank’s website. For that matter, the new arrangements are shown there, not under main labelling on the home page. (To make representations to the review, email comments@thekellyreview.co.uk.)

    Customers have been treated with contempt and continue to be, so why the bank should listen to the campaign, sadly, I cannot see – and with the switch to being 3/4rds owned by US hedge funds, not known for ethical behaviour, how it could ever be reinstated as a mutual is even more difficult to envisage.

    Indeed, we can see where we are heading already. Euan Sutherland says that co-op principles will be maintained. How? The bank ain’t gonna be a co-op. And to retain the name is nothing short of dishonest and misleading. A co-op is a legal entity, like a building society, and no building societies continued to continue to call themselves that when they were demutualised and became banks.

    Reply
    1. Steve Cook

      I’m as agree as you are about what’s happened and I’ve considered switching but I think the campaign is worth a try. Mutuality means shared responsibility and perhaps we have some responsibility to the staff who may lose their jobs if the bank folds, and also to the small-scale bondholders ( soon to become shareholders ) who have invested to save for their pension.

      Reply
    2. Andrew Wigglesworth

      I’m more and more inclined to your view. We’ve lost the bank, it’s gone, the hedge funds etc will not give it back.

      There needs to be a proper shakeup and democratic accountability for those who thought they could wheel and deal with our bank and screwed up so badly that they lost it.

      So, Euan Sutherland, the Co-op Group board, all those executives. YOU SCREWED UP SO BADLY THAT YOU LOST THE CO-OP BANK!

      I think that needs repeating, at all members meetings, everywhere. There seems to be no admission or recognition of responsibility. They lost the Co-op Bank. and after they gutted the CIS to try to fund what turns out to have been the ludicrous Verde bid for Lloyds bank branches.

      I’m still shocked every time I think of it. This is the biggest single set-back that the Co-operative movement has ever had in this country, bigger than the loss of the london Co-operatives. They were in charge, it was their watch, their duty to protect the Co-op, they didn’t.

      Also. When is a C-op not a Co-op … when it turns into a minority investor in a bank owned and run by coporate vilture hedge funds. The “Co-op Bank” is no longer, the Co-operative Group has no business being involved with it. It’s not a Co-operative owned bank any more but the executives seem to be viewing the Co-operative Group as some sort of corporate holding business with “interests”.

      How about selling off the shops to Tesco or Sainsburys? By the same logic the Co-operative Group could have a small percentage of those businesses and you could finish off the job of destroying the major part of the co-operative movement in this country.

      Co-operative principles seem to be another thing that has gone down the corporate toilet along with the bank.

      Reply
      1. moderator Post author

        The hedge funds will want an exit. Then at least there is an opportunity to get it back. Negotiations over the detail are still in play and we can have influence. But we must stick together and we must act fast.

  5. Vintage Afternoon Teas

    Please consider the staff at the Bank, many of whom are based in Manchester, Skelmersdale and Stockport, and many of whom are Co-op members. I write as a former Co-op Bank staff member. They didn’t get the Bank into this mess, the Board and senior management are responsible, and I’m really concerned about their jobs.

    Reply
  6. Diccon

    As customers of the Co-operative Bank plc, are we also members of the bank in the same way as Nationwide members are? Or is it that we are just members of the Co-operative Group and the bank is owned by the Co-opertaive Group?. In either case does anyone know if we have any way under the ‘constituition’ (IPS Act or Companies Act) of the Co-operative Group or the Co-operative Bank plc to force an extraordinary general meeting or some other tactic to influence or hold the Board to account.

    Any ideas or knowledge?

    Reply
      1. Andrew Wigglesworth

        So you’re not bothering with the big thing that makes Co-operatives different? That is, that they are controlled by their members.

        To be honest, the only thing that seems possible is to remove those that lost the bank and don’t seem to be owning up to the fact and to make the movement more democratically accountable again.

        Co-op principles seem to have vanished whilst we have to listen and watch Co-op Group executives and the PR department spin this utter disater into some bizarre victory.

    1. Andrew Wigglesworth

      Nationwide is the former Co-operative Building Society, is directly controlled by it’s members (not just a PLC like the “Co-op Bank” controlled in some “group” of businesses) and a member of Co-operatives UK.

      Reply
  7. Mair

    Very glad to find this campaign, thanks to the article in the Guardian earlier this week.

    I am on the point of switching, having had growing concerns for some time.
    I will however keep my account open with a pound so that my voice can be added to this important campaign.

    I feel the Co-op Bank has been heading in the wrong direction and becoming more and more “corporate” in its approach and less and less interested in its customers or on its ethical or its co-operative base.

    My concerns spread to the whole Co-operative Group, but the Bank is the fore-runner, and with this disastrous deal with the hedge funds has sold out.

    Reply
  8. Mair

    Just seen on the facebook page https://www.facebook.com/saveourbank that there is a suggestion of a mass switch on the same day.

    I like this idea, and would be very happy to hold on a little longer if this is a definite plan.

    Do you have a date in mind?

    Or are there certain things you want to try to achieve first before taking this step?

    Reply
    1. moderator Post author

      We don’t have a date for a mass switch. The situation is very fluid – particularly at the moment. So we want to see if we can influence how things develop. The aims of the campaign are clear: the bank must stay ethical, and should return to mutual ownership. What’s not clear yet is how to achieve that.

      Reply
  9. Sylvia

    Thank goodness for The Guardian as we all seem to have found out about this site & campaign from them. I too was looking for an alternative – there aren’t any – but no longer. I’m hanging on & hoping this campaign will work. Don’t moan. Join the fight!

    Reply
  10. Terry Philpot

    The last comment says that there are not alternatives but there are: credit unions and building societies which offer deposit and withdrawal facilities to third parties; Nationwide, the biggest building society in the world; the Reliance Bank, owned by the Salvation Army; the UK outpost of the Swedish Handelsbanken, which though a private bank has a very high ethical score.

    Reply
    1. Sylvia

      Terry Philpot – True, some building societies & all(?) credit unions offer various accounts, & there are banks which have some ethical ideas. But none of them have the wide range of the Coop Bank. I do not wish to just support the British Legion for example. Perhaps you could tell me what the ethical stance of Nationwide is (apart from listening to members)? Having been burnt by the Iceland Bank some years ago, I’m not going to try another foreign bank if I can help it. So, any other suggestions?
      Sylvia

      Reply
  11. Rob Kay

    I will certainly be one of those switching if the Hedge Funds take control. It was precisely to avoid having such types of people benefit from my money that I transferred to the Co-op bank 30 years ago. In the intervening years they have become if anything more virulent.

    Even sadder is the failure of Co-op management: they have been incompetent; they have not taken responsibility; they have not been transparent; they have not consulted their members. I think root and branch reform is required.

    Here for discussion is a random thought. It seems clear that the alternative to standard limited liability companies that works best is the Partnership, not the Co-operative. It is the comparison between John Lewis and the Co-op. In a Partnership staff are involved in the running of the company and rewarded when it does well; in a Co-op, this is not necessarily true. Thus over time, the Partnership recruits better staff, motivates them better, becomes better organized and makes better decisions; it takes a long-term view and treats customers ethically. My suggestion, if it is possible, is that the Co-op group should re-invent itself as a hybrid Co-op/Partnership. In this idea the profits would be shared between customers and staff, and the staff would have a much more explicit role in running the organization. Is there an obvious flaw in this idea?

    Reply
    1. Sylvia

      Re Rob Kay’s suggestion of a hybrid Co-op/ Partnership. This sounds interesting. Can you tell us more about setting one up, transferring from another organisation (Coop), etc.? How did John Lewis do it?

      Reply
    1. Andrew Wigglesworth

      Please don’t abandon the Co-operative movement though. It is still important and what is needed is more membership activity again.

      Also, there are different socities around the country, my local one and its management (Heart of England Co-operative Society) certainly had nothing to do with the loss of the bank.

      I’m afraid many of us became a little complacent, we should learn our lesson from this debacle too.

      Reply
  12. angus

    The situation is particularly parlous as the “hedge funders” who are attacking the Co-op are actually “Vulture Funds” who seek out even whole countries e.g. Argentina, and more-or-less blackmail them into capitulation. They never give up once their claws are into a debt carcass.

    Beyond that, I’m not sure that the “top” people at the Co-op are at all trustworthy in all this. As stated above, they have treated the “customers” with contempt by keeping us all in the dark about their appalling decisions (gods know how they treat their staff), and there seems a sliver of a chance that this rapid move to floatation and horrendous vulture funding may be guided by some personal gain along the way.

    Reply
  13. ladybirdathome

    Too late, switched immediately to Nationwide. Nice idea – a David and Goliath fight against US vulture capitalism, and though part of me like to think you can make a difference I know in my head you can’t, not against these people

    Reply
  14. Sue Wright

    I agree that the John Lewis Partnership model is worth exploring, not just because it is more democratic, enables staff to be more involved in decision making and holds managers more to account, but also because it is based on a Deed of Trust that is irredeemable and therefore cannot be demutualised.

    Reply
    1. moderator Post author

      Please note that this discussion is not easily visible on the new site and is effectively limited to WordPress users. The new site allows comments from anyone. So you may want to continue the discussion there. There are also important new posts there, including a survey of supporters’ opinions.
      http://saveourbank.coop
      Thanks

      Reply
  15. Neil

    When the Co-op shares finally go public perhaps other smaller Co-op societies and even trade unions could buy a few per cent each; once that magic 50% is reached then the hedge funds have lost their influence.

    Reply
  16. Sylvia

    Will we really be able to buy shares as individuals? If so, isn’t that one thing we could do to prevent the hedge funds from having a controlling interest? Can all the people on this site get together to buy shares even if we only put in a few pounds each? I would definitely be up for that. I would also suggest my union buys some too.

    Reply

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