Grimsby branch of Co-operative bank to close in June

By Grimsby Telegraph | Posted: 13 Mar 2017

THE Grimsby branch of the Co-operative Bank will close in June.

A loyal customer of 12 years has described her 'outrage' at the news and says the staff at the West St Mary's Gate branch have been advising customers that it will close in just three months time.

The firm has confirmed the branch will close on June 20.

The woman, who wishes to remain anonymous, says she is now tasked with changing banks completely, because the next nearest Co-Operative Bank branches are in Lincoln, Hull and Doncaster.

Although most banking services are now available online, not all customers are comfortable with using online banking and not all people have access to the internet.

Heather Lauder, Director of Retail and Business Banking at The Co-operative Bank said: "These changes reflect the changing way that our customers choose to bank, as they increasingly undertake more of their transactions online or via contactless payments. The fall in the number of transactions made in the branches means it is simply no longer sustainable to keep them open.

"Our branch network remains an integral part of our overall customer service offer. We are redesigning and modernising our branches as consumers look to use the branch for more complex face to face advice at critical moments. We are also investing in our digital offering to provide customers with new, innovative ways to service their accounts and last year we launched a new mobile banking platform and introduced Apple Pay.

"We're committed to maintaining the high levels of service that our personal and business customers have come to expect from us and we have sought to minimise the impact of these closures. We are writing to those affected to provide information about the alternative options available to them. Alongside online and mobile banking facilities, all closing branches are within three miles of a Post Office branch where customers can undertake most day to day transactions, and in many cases much closer.

"The branches affected will close during June 2017. The Bank's network will then comprise 95 branches in total."

It comes as the banking service has reported annual losses of £477.1m but says it is happy with interest from potential bidders after putting itself up for sale last month.

Although the loss for 2016 seems enormous, it is an improvement on the previous year's £611m figure.

Four million customers are signed up to the lender, which said it was still being damaged by legacy issues and the low interest rate environment.

The bank raised the 'for sale' sign last month as it continues to struggle to bolster its financial strength in the wake of its near-collapse in 2013.

The disgruntled Grimsby customer, who will apparently be without a local branch of her bank from June, said: "I often pop in when I'm in town because I like to do my business face-to-face.

"It would be a massive shame if we were without Co-op Bank in Grimsby.

"It will leave a lot of customers unhappy. The people that work there are such a good team.

"When I lost a family member they were so generous and caring and that meant a lot to me.

"When I went in to the bank today the staff were advising customers that it is going to close.

"Apparently all customers are going to be getting a letter. There were some elderly people in there who seemed concerned about it."

On the bank's financial black-hole, it added how it was also working on a back-up plan to boost its capital reserves, by up to £750m, as an alternative to a sale should a buyer not be found. The plans are necessary because the Co-op needs to shore up its balance sheet.

Its balance sheet shot up following a calamitous 2009 merger with the Britannia Building Society. It then ran into trouble when it tried to buy more than 600 branches from Lloyds Banking Group.

The funding crisis meant the wider Co-op group was forced to give up control of the bank when a £1.5 billion capital-raising brought in a group of US hedge funds as shareholders in the lender.

It has spent the past year grappling to reduce its cost base - closing 59 branches leaving it with just 105. Over 800 jobs were lost.

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