Co-operative Bank to shut one in six branches

Co-operative Bank to shut one in six branches

The Co-operative Bank has unveiled plans to shut down around 50 branches as part of its rescue plan.

The Co-operative Group, which also owns supermarkets and funeral parlours, confirmed that hedge funds in the US and blue-chip investors will take control of 70% of its banking arm in a bid to fill a £1.5 billion black hole in the group's balance sheet.

By the end of 2014, the bank expects to significantly cut its network of 324 branches by at least 15%. It intends closing non-profitable branches and to integrate branches of Britannia into the bank's branch network.

The bank plans to mitigate the loss of branches by improving its digital service. It said: "The bank, in partnership with an established digital provider, will seek to significantly enhance its digital and self-service channels to allow its customers to access its products and services when and where they choose.

"It is expected that over time digital channels will be customers' preferred point of contact. These enhancements are intended to allow the bank to reduce its call centre and branch footprint whilst maintaining its market-leading levels of customer service."

The bank added that customers' needs will continue to be met through alternative channels including via ATMs and limited service branch offerings in Co-operative Group stores.

The group, which prides itself on its ethical stance, was quick to reassure customers that its ethics and values will be "embedded in its constitution" and will be reinforced by the fact that as it will retain a 30% share and will remain the largest single shareholder.

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We transfered to the Co-operative bank when our previous bank closed its branch in our village. If the Co-op closes our local branch we will transfer again. We think we need services that can only be provided by local personal contact.