Newsletter 22 December 2015

Meeting with the Co-op Bank on account closures – bank’s new campaign – Crowdfunder closes

Dear supporter

In this newsletter, an update on our meeting with the Co-op Bank last week, and news on the bank’s return to ethical campaigning.

First, though, a quick update on our Crowdfunder, which closed successfully last Tuesday with £30,984 raised from 1509 backers. It’s a great result, and we want to say a very big thank you to everyone who pledged – all will become members of the UK’s first customer union when it is formally set up early in the new year.

If you weren’t able to pledge but still want to join the union, there will be a sign-up form added to the SaveOurBank website soon.

In the coming weeks we will finish formally establishing the customer union as a cooperative, upgrade the saveourbank.coop website, and prepare for launch. We’ll be in touch with everyone who pledged about membership and rewards very soon.

Meeting on account closures

We’ve been campaigning in recent weeks on the Co-op Bank’s closure of a number of accounts for community groups and charities that make transfers to what the bank has termed “high risk areas” - see our web page for further information. In response to widespread concern among our members at these account closures, we wrote to the bank and launched a petition with 38 Degrees calling on them to stop. Over 5,000 people have signed the petition so far.

We met with members of the bank’s management team last week to put our concerns to them. They emphasised that accounts have been closed due to the bank’s assessment of risk and the cost of meeting its regulatory requirements, and not due to any outside pressure. During the meeting they made the following points, since confirmed in writing:

  • The bank is reviewing the communications it sends customers in relation to closing accounts and it won't be starting any new closures until this review completes.
  • The bank has around 40,000 charity customers and only a small number would be affected by the new risk management plan.
  • Not all organisations whose focus is Palestine are facing account closure under this programme.

Our view is that the bank is closing accounts where it sees doing the necessary checks as too costly. We think this risks impacting vulnerable people and stopping the work of legitimate groups supporting human rights and development. The bank apparently recognises that there are problems with how this has been handled so far but we want the account closures to stop. We'd like to see the bank help customers that want to make legitimate transfers to “high risk” countries, to be able to do so safely, and in ways which ensure the bank meets its regulatory requirements.

We’re awaiting a further response from the bank on suggestions we have made.

The bank’s return to campaigning

The Co-op Bank has returned to ethical campaigning with the launch of “my money, my life”, in partnership with the domestic violence charity Refuge.

The campaign highlights the issue of financial abuse in intimate relationships, and began with a survey exploring the extent of the problem. This showed that one in five UK adults have suffered from some kind of financial abuse, and that 60% of the victims are women. See The Guardian’s story about this research here. The bank will be campaigning to change the banking sector’s approach to this problem.

We called on the bank to return to campaigning on ethical issues. Campaigning set the bank apart from the rest of the sector and brought its ethical policy to life. We’re very pleased to see the bank returning to the fray with this important issue.

We’ll be in touch early in 2016 with news on launching the Customer Union.

With best wishes for a merry Christmas and a happy new year!

The Save Our Bank team

Sign the 38 Degrees petition