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The Co-operative Bank and ethical campaigning

The Co-operative Bank has a proud history of ethical campaigning.

Our values and ethics have always been more than words on paper. They underpin how we run our business. The Co-operative Bank remains the only High Street bank in the UK to have a customer-led Ethical Policy and we have a proud history of campaigning on issues we know our customers care about.

When we extended our Ethical Policy in 2015, our customers told us that they wanted to see the Bank return to campaigning, to address issues and causes where we can help to make a difference.

Although a little known issue, financial abuse in intimate relationships is widespread and its impacts are far reaching. We wanted to better understand the issue and the role banks could play in supporting victims so we formed a partnership with Refuge, the national domestic violence charity, together we approached Nicola Sharp-Jeffs from the Child and Woman Abuse Studies Unit (CWASU) at London Metropolitan University and commissioned a new research report into the issue: Money Matters – research into the extent and nature of financial abuse in relationships in the UK.

Our aim is to lift the lid on the issue, increase understanding and identify ways in which banks can make changes to help victims.

What are we campaigning for?

The Co-operative Bank is committed to implementing key recommendations and working with the banking industry to help the victims of financial abuse in relationships.

We are making a series of recommendations on how the banking sector could positively support the victims of financial abuse in relationships.

The Bank is committed to implementing key recommendations, looking to positively support victims of financial abuse by working with the banking industry in an effort to:

  • Develop a code of practice to guide financial institutions so there is consistent response to the disclosure of intimate partner financial abuse;
  • Develop awareness-raising materials for customers and guidance about how to recognise and cope with financial abuse in relationships;
  • Train staff to respond appropriately and create referral pathways to access specialist support;
  • Develop a system where victims who need to report this kind of abuse don’t need to tell their story repeatedly, which can be traumatic.

We are asking our customers to support the campaign by raising awareness of this little known issue by breaking down the barriers that currently exist. Women, who are the main victims of financial abuse in relationships, are least likely to inform their bank. Our customers should be able to talk to the bank and be referred to the relevant support organisations for help.

The impact of financial abuse in relationships can be long-lasting and is a barrier to many victims being able to rebuild their lives. My money, my life is about giving control back to the victims so they can move forward.

Case study: Natalie’s story

Natalie met her husband Guy in 2002. They were together for nine and a half years.

Glimmers of ‘something not quite right’ began when they became engaged after a year of being together. At this point, Natalie still had her own home to ‘escape his moods for a few days’ - but when they moved away from her home town, the abuse she experienced escalated.

Natalie’s partner put pressure on her to put money in their joint account. He then took money out of the joint account, or withheld money from it, so that they would go into overdraft. When the account was in overdraft, Natalie's partner blamed her and forced her to pay for things like food out of any personal means she might have.

Her partner also withheld financial information from her, not informing her if he got a tax rebate and being deceptive about how he was spending money.

Natalie eventually reported the abuse she experienced to the police and was put in touch with a Refuge outreach worker who supported her to leave and divorce her husband.

Copyright Julian Nieman for Refuge

What is financial abuse?

Financial abuse in intimate relationships is a way of controlling a person's ability to acquire, use and maintain their own money and financial resources.

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What can I do?

Financial abuse in relationships is a little known issue - our customers can help by talking about the issue and raising awareness.

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