Newsletter 21 July 2016

Co-op Bank AGM and ethics report, conference save the date, account closures campaign

Welcome to our July newsletter

It’s been another busy month for the Save Our Bank campaign. Here is what we have been up to since our last email update, in brief:

  • Customer union update: co-op now set up with a bank account

  • Save the date for our first conference: Saturday 19 November
  • We attend the bank’s AGM
  • Co-op Bank releases its ethics report
  • Save Our Bank and Amnesty UK hold all-day seminar on account closures

Customer Union update: In March we told you that the Customer Union for Ethical Banking Limited has been established as a co-operative. We’ve now had our bank account opened by the Co-op Bank, thankfully, as of last month. We’re continuing the work to build our website to accept new members - this is turning out more complex than we thought but should be ready in the coming weeks.

Saturday 19th November: save the date. The date for the first Customer Union Conference has been set as Saturday 19 November. We will be organising an all-day conference in Manchester looking at the future of ethical banking. It will be the first opportunity for customer union members and supporters of the Save Our Bank campaign to come together and discuss how we will organise and work to keep the bank ethical. More details to follow. We’d love to see you there.

We attend the Co-op Bank’s AGM: Save Our Bank’s Shaun Fensom attended the Co-op Bank’s AGM on 21 June. The AGM is for shareholders in the bank, and as the bank is mostly owned by a handful of distant hedge funds, it’s a small, slightly strange affair. In fact it lasted only ten minutes, and our question, on account closures, was the only one. More important was the opportunity to meet with the bank’s senior managers. They know about Save Our Bank and made it clear that they are listening to what we are saying.

Co-op Bank releases its ethics report: In early June, the Co-op Bank published its Values & Ethics Report over 2015. This presents the bank’s work to implement the five pillars of its Ethical Policy. It tells us for example that in 2015 the bank declined business for two organisations that failed to meet its climate change criteria, became a Living Wage Employer, raised almost £1m through charity credit cards, launched “the Hive” to support the development of new and existing co-ops, and returned to campaigning by partnering with Refuge to lift the lid on financial abuse in intimate relationships. We would like to have seen the report address the closure of bank accounts for solidarity organisations – real “warts and all” reporting should cover ethical criticisms as well. And it’s notable that the report’s auditors have criticised the bank for a repeated failure to report on how it incorporates the protection of human rights into its strategy and product development (not unrelated to our criticisms around account closures). While there are criticisms, it’s light-years ahead of the other high-street banks. You can see the full report and read our review here.

Save Our Bank and Amnesty UK hold all-day seminar on account closures

On Wednesday 6th July Save Our Bank held a discussion meeting on the impact of bank account closures on charities and campaign groups, organised together with Amnesty International UK and the Fund for Global Human Rights. This was a well-attended round-table including groups that had had their accounts closed by the Co-op Bank, as well as experts on the financial regulations associated with bank account closures. It was an immensely useful and interesting session, which helped us build alliances and strategies for our engagement with the bank to change its approach on account closures. You can read a report on the meeting here.

With best wishes,
Save Our Bank