This is the text of a speech given by Frances Coppola at the UK Society of Co-Operatives Conference on September 7th 2014 at the University of Essex.
The story of the Co-Op Bank is really the story of two banks: the Co-Op Bank itself, of course, but perhaps even more importantly – the story of the Britannia.
The Britannia story
The Co-Op Bank is not, and never was, a mutual or a co-operative. It is a plc. It was until its failure 100% owned by a co-operative, namely the Co-Operative Group. But the Co-Operative Group's ownership of it was on a limited liability shareholding basis. Co-Op Bank Customers were customers, not members: they did not, and do not, own the bank.
But Britannia was genuinely a mutual. It had successfully fought off an attempt by carpetbaggers to demutualise it in 1999. It remained in mutual ownership until its merger with Co-Op Bank, when its members became members of the Co-Operative Group.
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