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The Co-operative Bank plc
Co-operative Bank Oxford branch.jpg
Type Consumer Co-operative
Founded 1872 (as CWS Loan and Deposit Dept.)
Headquarters Manchester, England, UK
Key people Neville Richardson, Chief Executive (Co-operative Financial Services)[1]
Industry Financial Services
Products Retail banking, Commercial banking and Independent Financial Advice
Revenue £3.5 billion

The Co-operative Bank plc is a commercial bank in the United Kingdom and Guernsey, with its headquarters in Manchester.

The bank markets itself as an ethical bank, and refuses to invest in companies involved in the arms trade, global climate change, genetic engineering, animal testing and use of sweated labour as stated in its ethical policy. The ethical policy was introduced in 1992.[2] In 2002, Co-operative Group Limited brought the bank and Co-operative Insurance Society under the control of a newly incorporated holding society, Co-operative Financial Services.



The Stockport Pyramid building provides administrative services, including a call centre for Smile and The Co-operative Bank

The Bank was formed in 1872 as the Loan and Deposit Department of Manchester's Co-operative Wholesale Society, becoming the CWS Bank four years later. However, the bank did not become a registered company until 1971 [3]. In 1975, the bank became the first new member of the Committee of London Clearing Banks for 40 years [4], and thus able to issue its own cheques.

In 1974 the Co-operative Bank has offered free banking for personal customers who remain in credit. It was also the first Clearing Bank to offer an interest-bearing cheque account, in 1982



Unlike other co-operative banks, such as the Dutch Rabobank[5], the Co-operative Bank does not have a federal structure of local banks, instead being a single national bank. Nor is the bank directly owned by its own members [6], or account holders - unless they are also Co-operative Group members. In this instance, the Co-operative Bank is wholly-owned by Co-operative Financial Services, whose sole shareholder is the (member-owned) Co-operative Group. [6] Members of the Co-operative Group are also entitled to earn dividend on their account holdings and borrowing with the Bank.[7]


The Bank launched a separate internet-only operation known as smile in 1999, which, according to surveys, has the highest satisfaction ratings among UK banks and has received many awards in recent years for customer service and online banking.[8] It has around half-a-million customers. smile has its call centre based at a unique pyramid building in Stockport.

Independent Financial Advice

The Co-operative Bank offers whole of market independent financial advice (IFA) through Co-operative Independent Financial Advisers (CIFA). CIFA are based about 500 yards from the Co-operative Bank "Pyramid" in Regent House, Stockport. CIFA offers independent advice mainly on investment, retirement and Inheritance Tax planning. CIFA has over 100 advisers across the UK, incorporating specialists in Complex Pensions and Corporate Financial Planning. CIFA currently has around 70,000 clients across the UK made up of clients with links to the bank, and through their extensive seminar programme held at venues up and down the country.

Manchester:A statue of cooperative pioneer Robert Owen stands in front of the bank's head office

Britannia Building Society

In October 2008, it was reported that Co-operative Financial Services was in talks with Britannia Building Society with a view to sharing facilities and possibly a full merger.

Such a venture would be possible following the passing of the Building Societies (Funding) & Mutual Societies (Transfers) Act 2007, [9] although further secondary legislation is required before such a merger can take place.

On 21st January 2009, Co-operative Financial Services and Britannia Building Society agreed to a merger, with the new 'super-mutual' being brought under the stewardship of The Co-operative Group. The proposed merger was subject to a vote by Britannia's members at their AGM at the end of April 2009.

On 29th April 2009 Britannia's members voted overwhelmingly in favour of the merger.[10]

The merger in the short term, both Britannia Building Society and the Co-operative Financial Services will have to continue operating their own products, branch networks and systems.


While the bank, like any other, is run on profitable lines, it does occasionally turn away new business which it feels may compromise its ethical policies. In the 2005/06 financial year, whilst making profits of £96.5 million, it turned away business of nearly £10 million.[11]

In June 2005, the bank closed the account of a Christian evangelical group (Christian Voice) because of its homophobic standpoint. They said the group was "incompatible with the position of the Co-operative Bank, which publicly supports diversity and dignity". Christian Voice said the bank was discriminating against it on religious grounds.[12] Gay Times subsequently selected the Co-operative Bank for its Ethical Corporate Stance Award.[13]

Other banks

A much smaller US thrift institution, The Cooperative Bank in Roslindale, Massachusetts (a neighbourhood of Boston), shares a similar name (without the hyphen) which it adopted in 1998 on the merger of Roslindale Cooperative Bank with Charlestown Cooperative Bank.[14] As of 2008, it is one of approximately 60 state-chartered co-operative banks in Massachusetts, which unusually among the 50 United States, maintains some legal and regulatory distinctions between three categories of community banking institutions: mutual savings banks, co-operative banks and credit unions.


  1. ^ Who is the chief executive of the Co-operative Bank? The Co-operative Bank (retrieved 25 August 2009)
  2. ^ Welcome to our ethical policy The Co-operative Bank (retrieved 29 November 2007)
  3. ^ Co-operative Financial Services History (retrieved 18 December 2008)
  4. ^ Co-operative Financial Services - the Co-operative Bank (retrieved 18 December 2008)
  5. ^ Rabobank Profile, (retrieved 18 December 2008)
  6. ^ a b the Co-operative Financial Services financial statement 2007 (retrieved 23 June 2008)
  7. ^ The Co-operative Membership The Co-operative Bank (retrieved 09 April 2008)
  8. ^ Awards smile: the internet bank (retrieved 29 November 2007)
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^ Walsh, Fiona Furry sporrans turned down as Co-op banks on ethical profit The Guardian, 30 May 2006
  12. ^ 'HYPOCRITICAL' CO-OP 'NOT THE BANK' FOR CHRISTIANS Christian Voice, Press Release, 23 June 2005
  13. ^ Gay Times, February 2006. See Awards Co-operative Financial Services (retrieved 29 November 2007)
  14. ^ The Cooperative Bank, About Us, Roslindale, Massachusetts, US,, retrieved 2008-10-20  

Further reading

External links



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