Britain's Co-op Bank cutting 350 jobs, closing 18 branches

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain’s Co-operative Bank is cutting around 350 jobs and closing 18 branches as the coronavirus crisis forces it to reduce costs, the lender said on Tuesday.

FILE PHOTO: People walk past a branch of The Co-operative Bank in London, Britain, February 13, 2017. REUTERS/Hannah McKay

Aside from staff affected in the closing branches, most of the roles being eliminated are in middle management and its head office, the bank said.

The 18 branches will close by the end of this year.

“Unfortunately, we’re not immune to the impact of recent events, with the historically low base rate affecting the income of all banks and a period of prolonged economic uncertainty ahead, which means it’s important we reduce costs and have the right-sized operating model in place for the future,” CEO Andrew Bester said.

The bank said the crisis meant more of its customers were banking online and fewer were visiting branches, although it said it chose which branches to shut following an analysis of footfall in 2019 prior to the UK’s lockdown due to the coronavirus.

Co-op Bank was loss-making entering into the crisis, as it laboured to turn around its finances since its near-collapse and rescue by a group of U.S. hedge funds in 2017.

In the first half of this year, the bank reported an increased statutory pre-tax loss of 44.6 million pounds ($58.46 million), compared to a 38.5 million pound half-year loss the prior year.

Union Unite said it was “deeply disappointed” by the Co-op Bank’s planned job losses and would press the lender to secure as many jobs as possible.

“Job losses are always unwelcome, however given the repeated restructuring exercises that this workforce has been through over the past 10 years the news today will be particularly painful,” the union’s national officer Rob MacGregor said.

($1 = 0.7630 pounds)

Reporting by Iain Withers; editing by Jason Neely and Susan Fenton