It can't be denied that 2013 wasn't the best year for the Co-operative Bank. In fact, its chief executive Euan Sutherland has gone so far as to say that it was the worst year in the bank's 170-year history, thanks to a combination of financial concerns (the £1.5bn hole in the balance sheet) and political scandals (the failed bid to buy Lloyds branches and former chairman Paul Flowers' alleged drug use).
That's why the Co-operative Group is now focusing on restoring public faith in the brand, and as part of that, customers and communities are being invited to take part in a poll regarding the bank's future.
The survey, which is thought to be the first of its kind, will ask wide-ranging questions in order to determine public attitudes to the brand and how they can be improved upon. It comes, in part, from a desire to listen to customers again as in recent years the bank has "lost touch" with the communities in which it serves, said Mr Sutherland, with the aim being to restore confidence and reward loyalty.
The poll will ask for views on what it can do to help local communities, for example, how dividends should be paid, how profits should be shared (once they're generated again) and, perhaps most controversially, whether or not the bank should keep making political donations – a question which could be particularly fraught given the group's links to the Co-operative party, of which shadow chancellor Ed Balls is a member.
The online survey – Have Your Say – will be open until 24 March, with the results due to be announced at the group's annual general meeting in May and published shortly thereafter.
It's a great opportunity for customers to make their views known, particularly for those that have been disillusioned after recent events and could perhaps be worrying about the continuing ethical stance of the bank. It could also be a good time to compare banking providers to see what else is out there.
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