Friday, 31 January 2014

Losing Customers

The Co-op Bank is losing customers apparently in the wake of the Reverend Flowers fiasco - and I can't say I'm surprised given the fact that the Bank has been giving away customers' money to the Labour Party while paying its Methodist preacher Chairman a ridiculous salary of £155,000 a year.

"What kind of Methodist preacher demands a salary of £155,000 a year?" I ask myself, more than a little incredulous. 

Here's an article from the Times which suggests the Co-op Bank is heading deeper into troubled waters unless it cleans up its act pretty damned quick - which it probably deserves.

And I speak as a Co-op Bank customer.    

Hedge fund sells up after forcing Co-op to cede control of bank

Aurelius sells bonds at profit before crucial vote

Co-op bank admits it is losing current accounts

By Jill Treanor

Co-op said savers were not moving their cash away from the bank. Photograph: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

One of the US hedge funds which forced the Co-operative Group to cede control of its troubled bank has sold its investment ahead of a crucial vote on a rescue £1.5bn fundraising.

Just hours after the Co-operative Bank admitted it was losing current accounts because of concerns over its future as an ethical institution amid the intervention of hedge funds and the scandal over former chairman Paul Flowers, it emerged that the US hedge fund Aurelius had sold its position in the bank's bonds.

Aurelius – best known for forcing Argentina to pay out on its debts – had bought up Co-op bonds as they collapsed in value following the downgrade of the bank to junk status in May. Since then the bonds have risen in value and have now been sold on to another hedge fund, London-based Perry Capital. Perry pledged to continue backing the crucial restructuring of the bank just hours before Friday's deadline to vote on the deal.

The so-called LT2 group of hedge funds, which included Aurelius and has forced the changes on the Co-op Group, made no reference to the crucial change in its membership when it reiterated its support for the restructuring on Thursday morning. If bondholders vote to back the restructuring of the bank, the wider Co-op Group, which includes supermarkets and funeral homes, will end up with just a 30% stake in the bank that bears its name. The deadline for votes is 4.30pm on Friday.

The Co-op, in an unscheduled announcement outlining technical changes to the terms offered to LT2, insisted that its savers – whom it relies on to finance its business – were not moving their cash out of the bank and its deposit base remained stable.

Flowers is on bail until January after being arrested following a Mail on Sunday report that showed a video of the 63-year-old Methodist minister handing over cash to apparently buy drugs. Even before Flowers' arrest there was concern that the intervention of hedge funds in the Co-op fundraising could make it difficult for the bank to maintain its ethical stance.

"These recent events, together with the competitive landscape in which the bank operates, the introduction of seven-day account switching and the associated increased competitor marketing activity at a time when the bank has been constrained in its ability to undertake its own marketing activity, may be a contributing factor to an increase the bank has seen in the switching out of current accounts," Co-op said.

The wording is tougher than that in the prospectus sent to bondholders on 4 November to back the restructuring when it referred to a "material reduction" in the number of people moving their accounts to the bank since the seven-day switching service was introduced in September. At that time it said corporate customers had taken away £1.4bn worth of deposits since the ratings downgrade in May.

The admission by the Co-op bank came as its regulator, Andrew Bailey, chief executive of the Prudential Regulation Authority, said the regulatory approval granted to enable Flowers to become chairman in 2010 was "before his time".

Bailey, who took over the top regulation job in the summer of 2011, said he had required the Co-op bank board to be strengthened and had set out hurdles for the bank to meet if it was to be granted approval for the takeover of 631 branches from Lloyds Banking Group. That deal, called Verde, collapsed this year.

Bailey insisted he did not "know the whole story" about what had happened or about any potential intervention from politicians keen to see the Co-op take over the Lloyds' branches. He added: "The real important thing today is not to deal with Reverend Flowers's antics but to deal with stabilisation and restructuring of the bank."