670 Co-op finance jobs to go

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The Independent Online

Co-operative Financial Services said today that it will cut 670 jobs as it shuts down its door-to-door sales team.

The field-based financial advice team is made up of 497 sales staff with the remainder in office-based managerial and support roles.

The job losses are part of the company's strategic review of its life and savings business, which was set up to consider the impact of new rules affecting financial advice in the UK.

CFS, part of the Co-operative Group, said the Retail Distributive Review (RDR), which will come into force in January 2013, will lead to increased regulatory costs.

Banking giant HSBC last month cut 700 jobs across the UK as it prepares for a drop in demand for financial advice as a result of the changes in the RDR.

CFS employs 12,000 staff and has eight million customers. It has more than 300 high street branches, 20 corporate banking centres and a major presence in Manchester, London, Leek, Plymouth, Skelmersdale and Stockport.

The group said a further 82 existing Co-operative branch-based roles will be transferred to AXA, with which it has a partnership.

CFS also revealed it has entered into talks with insurance firm Royal London to sell its life insurance subsidiary, including £15 billion of assets.

CFS chief executive Neville Richardson said: "We have taken the time needed to consider all our options and find a solution which is ultimately in the best long-term interests of our customers and members.

"We understand that such news may be difficult for impacted colleagues and we have not reached this outcome lightly.

"However, we were faced with rising regulatory costs in a business which was increasingly becoming sub-scale.

"This move supports our strategy to focus our specific attention on our banking and general insurance areas, where we have a growing and strongly differentiated competitive position."

CFS said consultation with unions on the proposed withdrawal from direct retail and distribution had started as part of the business review.

Unite national officer David Fleming said the union disagreed with CFS's decision to cut jobs.

He said: "Unite is now pushing for redeployment options wherever possible and, where this is not possible, for all involved to be treated fairly during the process."

The RDR rules will mean UK banks can no longer offer financial advice free of charge so demand for the service is expected to decline.