The Co-operative Bank dominated the ethical banking sector in the UK until recently. Its ethical policies rule out financing any company involved in arms sales to oppressive regimes, cosmetic testing on animals, many forms of fossil fuel extraction and a number of other practices regarded as unethical.
The future of the Co-operative is uncertain. Until 2013, the bank was owned by the Co-operative Group, a customers’ co-operative that also includes the Co-operative supermarket. In 2013, the Group announced that due to financial problems it would float the bank on the London Stock Exchange. The majority of shares are expected to go to private investors, many of them hedge funds, with the Co-operative Group owning a minority.
The Co-operative Group insists that the bank will retain its ethical investment policies, although critics question how this will be possible in view of the loss of control to private investors. Some customers have closed their accounts because of this fear, or because they object to the bank no longer being a co-operative (even if its ethical investment policies are retained). Others have insisted that they will stay with the bank to help to add to the pressure for the retention of ethical policies.
The Co-operative Bank offers the services generally provided by other high street banks, including current accounts, savings accounts, credit cards, overdrafts, loans and mortgages.