The eventual buyer of the Co-operative Bank can't count on keeping customers

Stephan Shakespeare
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Co-operative Group Difficulties Continue After Lord Myners Resigns
Whoever buys the Co-op Bank will need to maintain its ethical credentials (Source: Getty)

Withthe continuing uncertainty surrounding the future of Co-operative Bank, a new YouGov analysis underlines the challenge any new owner would have in ensuring the bank runs in a way that is aligned with current customers’ expectations.

The ‘Who could buy the Co-operative Bank?’ report shows that the ongoing indecision concerning its sale has impacted on the bank’s brand perception. Its impression score (whether someone has a good impression of the brand) among all respondents has dropped by eight points since it was announced the bank was up for sale and is now in negative territory (minus two).

Read more: As hopes of takeover fade, Co-op Bank backers could pump more into lender

Perceptions have also slipped among current Co-operative Bank customers. Although the impression score among this group remains healthy enough at 40, it has fallen from 57 over the last few months.

The first order of business for any incoming owner is to run the bank in a way that keeps the customer base on board. YouGov Profiles data confirms that Co-operative Bank customers are more likely than the general public to describe themselves as ‘ethical’, while a quarter (25 per cent vs nine per cent of the general public) look for ‘ethical’ credentials when choosing a bank account.

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Our figures show that they are more likely to make an effort to recycle, try to buy fair trade products and believe climate change is the biggest threat to civilisation.

What’s more, its current customers view the bank as being different to its rivals – and refute the notion that it is the same as all the other banks. Indeed, six in ten customers believe it is more ethical than its competitors.

As well as having to maintain its ethical credentials, any established bank looking to buy may also face resistance from customers who think the buyer is trying to trade on the Co-operative’s strong reputation.

Read more: TSB boss: No, we're not buying the Co-op Bank

One in five who have accounts with the bank say they would think worse of it if it were bought by an established competitor, but continued to trade under the Co-operative banner, although over half (56 per cent) would be unmoved.

So whatever the result of this protracted saga, special attention should be given to the particular motivations and characteristics of Co-operative customers.

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