The Co-op Group sent out a clear message to its competitors this week by appointing a new chairman and finance director for its struggling banking arm. Richard Pym, this incoming chairman, currently runs a bailed-out banking division for the government and hopes to ensure that customers will be given a genuine alternative choice to the traditional banks. The new finance director, Richard Pennycook, is currently finance director at supermarket chain Morrison and is joining the Co-op on an interim basis for the whole group.

Pennycook brings with him an impressive track record which includes the successful four-year turnaround plan after a troubled takeover of Safeway. The latest changes at the Co-op come after former B&Q CEO, Euan Sutherland replaced life-long Co-op employee Peter Marks as CEO of the whole Group. CEO Sutherland has praised the move to secure Pym, coupled with the appointment of former HSBC banker Niall Booker, saying the bank was now “in very good hands.“ 

Pym has promised to focus his energies on strengthening the bank’s balance sheet and resolving any underlying issues which may be affecting its performance. There has been a spate of high profile moves within the banking sector in recent months after RBS boss Robert Hester announced his intention to step down and the successful sale of the Irish Bank Resolution Corporation Limited by CEO Mike Aynsley and his board left Ireland with one less bad bank to resolve. Read more about this by clicking here.

It appears that the UK and Irish economies are now moving away from a period of consolidation and are now in the critical period of planning strategic growth in both their corporations and their economies. Government schemes which reduce risk for banks are now in place encouraging them lend to small businesses and first time homebuyers in order to stimulate growth in the economy and restore trust in the financial sectors. While the level of trust in the financial markets are at historic lows, there are signs of growth and by moving to install the right people to continue this growth, there is a feeling that the upward trends are set to continue.