The Co-operative Bank
The Co-operative Bank can trace its origins back to 1872 and the formation of the Loan and Deposit Department of the Co-operative Wholesale Society. Four years later it changed its name to the CWS Bank and although in the early years it only took deposits and granted loans to local retail co-operative societies, it was not long before it was acting as a bank for personal customers.
The Bank grew steadily with branches opening in Newcastle, London and Glasgow and after the First World War, the first in-store banking points were established in Co-op stores and more branches were opened in key locations.
By 1972 The Co-operative Bank, which was then known as The Co-operative Bank, had 32 branches throughout the country and in 1975 The Co-operative Bank became the first bank for some 40 years to join the Committee of London Clearing Banks. From then on, it has grown at a rapid rate.
Today, The Co-operative Bank is the only UK Clearing Bank to publish an ethical stance whereby it clearly tells its customers who it will and will not do business with. Since launching its ethical positioning in May 1992, thousands of concerned people who do not wish their money to be used for unethical reasons have had the opportunity to choose a bank that will not do business with unethical companies and organisations.
The Co-operative Bank was one of the first banks to offer its customers a 24 hour a day telephone banking service and it is now one of the biggest telephone banking operators in the UK. It has call centres at Skelmersdale and Stockport for personal customers and at Salford for its Business Direct telephone banking service especially developed for small and medium sized companies.
The Co-operative Bank has over 140 outlets covering most major towns and cities in the country and is a member of the LINK consortium, which means customers can use over 35,000 ATMs throughout the UK free of charge. In May 1994 the Co-operative Bank launched the first fully automated Bankpoint Kiosk which is an unstaffed outlet that is also available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Customers can use the LINK cash machine, an automatic deposit machine, and a video telephone link with The Co-operative Bank's Armchair Banking Service.
Over the years the Co-operative Bank has gained a reputation for introducing innovations that were later to be adopted by the rest of the industry. For example, since 1974 The Co-operative Bank has consistently offered free banking for personal customers who remain in credit and was the first Clearing Bank to offer an interest bearing cheque account called Cheque & Save.
In 1991 The Co-operative Bank shook the credit card market when it introduced a guaranteed ‘free for life’ Gold Visa card, and in 1993, The Co-operative Bank launched another ‘free for life’ Visa card named the Robert Owen card after the social reformer who was considered to be the father of the consumer Co‑operative Movement.
In 1996 The Co-operative Bank introduced the lowest ever interest rate credit card - the Advantage card, especially designed for people who constantly borrow and so find a low interest rate more advantageous than an interest free period.
In 1997 The Co-operative Bank celebrated its 125th anniversary by launching its Partnership approach, becoming the first company in the UK to produce a ‘warts and all’ social report involving all of the seven partners involved in The Co-operative Bank's activities.
The Co-operative Bank’s reputation for innovation was again demonstrated in October 1999 when they launched smile, the first full Internet bank in the UK. smile has been a breath of fresh air in the banking market, with its costs reflecting the reduced costs of Internet banking - offering its customers higher interest rates for savings and lower interest rates for borrowing.
The Co-operative Bank made a return to the mortgage market in 2000 when it launched a green flexible mortgage.
In 2001, The Co-operative Bank launched the UK's first ever fixed rate credit card, which offered a guaranteed rate of interest until 2006.
In 2002 The Co-operative Group board announced the formation of
Co-operative Financial Services Ltd (CFS). The move followed the decision to bring The Co-operative Bank and Co-operative Insurance Society (CIS) closer together under ‘common strategic leadership’.
In 2009 Britannia merged with The Co-operative Bank. The joining of two strong, ethically minded businesses provides a real alternative to other banks on the high street.
In 2011 The Co-operative Financial services rebranded as The Co-operative Banking Group, incorporating The Co-operative Bank (including smile and Britannia).
In addition to over four million customer accounts, The Co-operative Bank is banker to local authorities, many businesses and particularly the retail co-operative movement.