Leaving aside Reverend Flowers' drug abuse - the truly indefensible thing was how little this Co-op Bank chairman knew about finance

Morality must be more than an advertising slogan or carefully cultivated image

Share
Related Topics

Until this weekend it looked like things couldn’t get any worse for the Co-operative Bank. Earlier this year it was forced to pull the plug on its ambitious plans to buy some 630 branches from Lloyds. Shortly after, the bank revealed a catastrophic £1.5bn black hole in its balance sheet. Then this month the parent company, the Co-op Group mutual, admitted defeat in its fight to retain control of the bank and was forced to deliver the lender into the hands of a group of US hedge funds.

Now comes the revelation that its former chairman – a Methodist preacher no less – was buying cocaine and other hard drugs just days after being questioned by Parliament about the bank’s near collapse. The despoliation of the reputation of the once-respected institution, founded in 1872, is now surely complete.

Leave aside the Reverend Paul Flowers’ drug abuse for a moment. God knows enough of that goes on within the City of London. What was truly indefensible about Flowers’ position as chairman of the bank was that he knew so little about finance. That was made painfully clear at the Treasury Select Committee. Questioned by MPs over the size of his former institution’s balance sheet he replied £3bn. The true figure is, in fact, £47bn. No wonder the Co-Op got into such trouble with oversight of that calibre.

Spectacularly badly run, there are also questions over its professed morality even without the former chairman’s problems. It famously refuses to lend to arms traders and tobacco firms, but at the same time sold hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of unnecessary “payment protection insurance” to customers, for which it has received swingeing regulatory fines.

The Co-op Group seems to have believed that appointing a man of the cloth to head the board of its bank reinforced the mutual’s ethical brand values.

But morality needs to be more than an advertising slogan or a carefully cultivated image. It must be observable at all times in behaviour. If nothing else, the hapless Reverend Flowers has reminded us of that fact this weekend.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SQL Implementation Consultant (VB,C#, SQL, Java, Eclipse, integ

£40000 - £50000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: SQL Impl...

SQL Technical Implementation Consultant (Java, BA, Oracle, VBA)

£45000 - £55000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: SQL Technical ...

Head of IT (Windows, Server, VMware, SAN, Fidessa, Equities)

£85000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Head of IT (Windows, Server, VMware, SAN, ...

Lead C# Developer (.Net, nHibernate, MVC, SQL) Surrey

£55000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Lead C# Develo...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

i Editor's Letter: Still all to play for at our live iDebate

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
 

The leak of Jennifer Lawrence's nude photos isn't her fault. But try telling that to the internet's idiots

Grace Dent
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

Europe's biggest steampunk convention

Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor