Dear Cooperative Bank,
You recently sent me an unsolicited email explaining how exciting you are. I just called the message up on my phone and looked at it with interest as you can imagine. You invite me to celebrate what makes you different. I feel I have to reply.
I need to ask a few simple questions about your claim that you “don’t shy away from doing things differently.”
- Your non-executive chairman, Paul Flowers, had to resign after being filmed by an acquaintance in his car agreeing to buy cocaine and methamphetamine, and counting large sums of money while discussing his use of a range of other banned drugs (see here). He also reportedly used his office phone at the Co-op to book appointments with rent boys. Was this an example of “not shying away from doing things differently”?
- In the first half of 2013, the bank lost £700m and a black hole of £1.3bn was revealed in your finances. This was a full five years after the global financial crash gave you ample warning of the danger of risky loans and products. Should I “celebrate” the fact that this made you “different”?
- In 2010, Paul Flowers was appointed by Ed Miliband to Labour’s Finance & Advisory Board. Soon afterwards, Revd Flowers told a Treasury Select Committee in formal evidence that the value of the Cooperative Bank was “around £3bn.” It turned out to be £47bn, so he was £44bn out. See the conversation here. How “different” was that?
- When you revealed you had lost huge amounts of money I felt I should no longer have any sums in your accounts as you might be days from collapse. I rang and asked how I could shut my account down, and you said you would “need to be sent a fax.” There are not many fax machines left in Europe and I had to run around west London that Saturday trying to find a fax machine to send you urgent instructions. Is that an example of “not shying away from doing things differently?” Using fax machines?
- I left £20 in my account but in 2014, because of one or two small service charges, the balance dropped very slightly into the red. When that happened — my statement showed that I was £5.82 overdrawn — someone called Leanne in your debt recovery department swiftly sent me a letter threatening me with credit blacklisting. Her letter and my reply are below.
Is this high-handed letter an example of “not shying away from doing things differently”?
As you can see, Co-op, I was not an especially happy customer. You seemed to manage to engineer your own financial crisis several years after the rest of the world had left theirs behind them. You left the Cooperative’s rich social history in ribbons. I do still have my account — with about ten pounds’ credit, to ensure you don’t write me another threatening letter. And you know what? There is always redemption. I would consider banking with you again if I could be confident you will never again appoint a person to lead the bank who is high on ketamine.
But believe me, the last thing I want to hear from your marketing people right now is that you “don’t shy away from doing things differently.” I know that. That is exactly what got you into this mess. So may I respectfully suggest new wording for the email you sent me?
Because if you could start doing things sensibly, rather than differently, we might just have a chance. And I won’t hit the delete button, which I am now going to do.
Yours with respect and best wishes, Jeremy