Banking Bad: What The Co-op Got Wrong
So the latest big banking scandal involves my own bank – The Co-operative holds both my personal account and those of Terra Infirma Ltd. The company has had to sell huge chunks of equity to hedge funds after some spectacularly bad strategic moves. And now the Chairman, the Reverend Paul Flowers, has been exposed as a drug-taking, bungling klutz who can’t even quote the bank’s assets within the correct order of magnitude.
The reason why I switched my personal accounts over to the Co-op and opened the company’s business accounts there was its ethical stance – pure and simple. Now I’m livid. Not because the Rev Flowers, aka the Crystal Methodist, has a rather florid lifestyle (porn, drugs, orgies et al), but because when it comes to financial services, he is a rank amateur.
How on earth did he end up running a bank? Did the board think a man of the cloth would ensure the ethical stance? Was it through his political connections? Who knows, but he certainly didn’t get the role because of his business acumen. And that’s what makes me cross.
Running an ethical business is usually more difficult than running one with a narrow financial outlook. That means you need to be even better at, say, running a bank as others, as you have to deal with often conflicting drivers and still make the business work. A strong ethical stance will not cover for poor management or poor business sense.
This should stand as a lesson to all ethical businesses. You need to get the business right as well as the ethics.