Co-op Bank boss Andrew Bester has quit suddenly in the middle of a turnaround plan
The Co-op Bank was plunged into fresh turmoil yesterday after losing its fifth chief executive in less than a decade.
Andrew Bester has quit suddenly in the middle of a turnaround plan, but it confirmed he would stay on until a replacement was found.
Bester joined the bank in July 2018 to turn its fortunes around, after the lender nearly collapsed in 2013.
He leaves his post just 18 months into the turnaround project.
Yesterday, the bank said that Bester ‘feels this is the right moment for new leadership and a new personal challenge’.
It added that he had ‘successfully led a complex transformation programme’ involving separating the bank’s IT systems from the broader Co-op Group, which it is no longer part of, and improving the lender’s online banking systems.
But Bester’s departure will keep the revolving door spinning in the boardroom at the bank.
Problems trace back as far as 2009, when it completed an ill-advised merger with Britannia.
It was then led by Neville Richardson, who stepped down in 2011 and was replaced by Barry Tootell.
In 2010 Co-op Bank appointed Paul Flowers, a former Methodist church minister, as chairman, even though he had little banking experience.
By 2013, the bank was falling apart. Tootell resigned after reporting a huge loss and a £1.5bn hole in the balance sheet. He later admitted accounting misconduct.
Flowers also resigned, and four months later pleaded guilty to possession of an array of Class A drugs, which earned him the nickname ‘the Crystal Methodist’.
Former HSBC banker Niall Booker was then appointed as chief executive in 2013 to turn the bank around, but he lasted for just three years.
He was replaced by Liam Coleman, whose time at the top was even more short-lived and he was soon replaced by Bester. Yesterday, the departing chief executive said: ‘My ambition was to complete the major transformation phase of the turnaround and for our franchise to show resilience.’
He added: ‘At this point, I believe the bank is on the right path and it is time for a new CEO to continue the journey to be the digital ethical bank.
‘In the meantime I remain focused on working with colleagues to provide the support our customers need.’
The Co-op Bank is currently owned by the hedge funds that took it over in a rescue deal. It was reportedly searching for a buyer earlier this year, but so far none has come forward.