Co-operative Bank profit hit by one-off costs as takeover talks forge ahead

28 February 2024, 12:04

A Co-operative Bank branch
Co-operative Bank stock. Picture: PA

The bank said 2023 had been ‘a year of transformation’ as it spent more money on improving its own systems.

The Co-operative Bank has seen its yearly profit nearly halve after it set aside cash to compensate mortgage customers from more than a decade ago, while the lender said it is still in talks with Coventry Building Society over a possible tie-up.

The bank, which has about 2.6 million customers and says it is the UK’s leading ethical bank, said 2023 had been “a year of transformation” as it spent more money on improving its own systems.

It reported a pre-tax profit of £71.4 million for 2023, shrinking from the £132.6 million it made in 2022.

The business said the decline was driven by one-off costs during the year.

It set aside nearly £29 million to cover the costs of a redress scheme to compensate mortgage customers from 2011 and 2012.

It followed complaints being upheld by the Financial Ombudsman Service relating to an increase in the rate of its standard variable mortgage rate, which most people move to once their fixed-term deal comes to an end.

Co-op Bank said it had decided to compensate customers who might have been affected, regardless of whether or not they had complained.

It also revealed it spent about £15 million on improving how it manages savings and loans, and around £8 million on advisory costs relating to a strategic review of the business.

Staff costs jumped by a fifth as it invested in contact centres, and wages were pushed higher by inflation.

Chief executive Nick Slape said: “2023 has been a year of transformation and I am extremely proud of what we have achieved.

“We are ever mindful of the financial challenges that the current economic climate poses for a number of customers and we will continue to support them where needed.”

Co-operative Bank chief executive Nick Slape said 2023 had been ‘a year of transformation’ (Co-op Bank/PA)

The proportion of customers who were more than three months in arrears on their payments rose from 0.13% in 2022 to 0.21% in 2023, but remained low.

The bank said it is aware of the risk of more customers falling behind on their repayments, particularly with the level of unemployment in the UK expected to rise this year.

Meanwhile, Mr Slape said the bank continues to be in “exclusive discussions” with Coventry Building Society over a possible merger of the two high street lenders, which was first announced at the end of last year.

“These discussions remain ongoing as we continue to evaluate the merits of the combination,” he said.

Co-operative Bank has been at the centre of takeover speculation, having returned to profit two years ago under the leadership of Mr Slape who steered the group’s turnaround.

It is no longer part of the wider Co-operative Group, from which it parted ways in 2017.

By Press Association