I have had a number of bank accounts with the Co-op for some years now. I’ve complained about them occasionally but, overall, they are light years ahead of the service you get from any one of the big banks, which are like a brontosaurus in comparison, unaware of activity from their own tail.
I believe the difference is that the Co-op is part of a mutual. I am theoretically part owner, and that word 'theoretically' is part of the problem. It means far too little in practice.
It also failed to prevent the Co-op’s previous management from buying Britannia Building Society, along with all their voluminous debts. Consequently, they are now in some difficulties. I can’t help feeling that, if Co-op had felt a little more like a mutual, that fate might have been avoided, but we shall never know.
They are not in so much difficulty that they have been unable to agree terms with creditors, and he we come to the nitty-gritty.
Because two creditors, American hedge funds which bought into the debt in the summer – particularly notorious vulture funds – are objecting to the plan. They are trying to force the Co-op Bank to abandon its mutual status and be listed on the stock market, though Co-op group will remain the majority owner.
Many of this predatory group remain secret. A Co-op committee is now deliberating over whether they are right.
It may be a little portentous to put it like this, but: nobody has asked me.
I believe that, technically, I’m not a co-owner of the bank. But I am a customer and a stakeholder, and I did not become a customer to be taken for granted – or to be the customer of a bank listed with shares that can be bought by speculators, at the behest of hedge funds.
Apparently, they believe I will be there as a customer whatever they do. It seems to me that, by making clear this isn’t the case, we might prevent the hedge funds having it all their own way.
If they win this battle, I hereby promise to close my Co-op bank accounts and credit cards, and withdraw my savings from their savings funds, and do whatever I can to leave them with an empty shell.
Who is with me?