Focus on customers

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Phil Basten

There is no doubt that events in the macro economy are affecting the domestic financial market. Insurers are facing losses due to the spate of natural disasters in the Pacific Rim. Meanwhile, the banks are bracing themselves for the impact of the debt crisis in the euro zone and the withdrawal of liquidity support by the Bank of England over the next 12 months. And, all of this comes at a time when our economy is still in a fragile state of recovery following the global credit crunch.

In such challenging conditions, it is hard to see the potential for opportunities, let alone growth. Yet, against this backdrop, The Co-operative Bank has emerged as a financial force and a real alternative to shareholder-owned institutions. It culminated with The Co-operative Financial Services, of which the bank is a part, receiving the Financial Times 'Sustainable Bank of the Year' Award in 2010 and Europe's Most Sustainable Bank in 2011.

The award is testament to our ethical leadership and innovation in running a sustainable business - in the broadest sense. Significantly, it also pays tribute to the fact that at a time of unprecedented economic turmoil, CFS has continued to deliver consistently strong profitability and growth.

Our financial performance and stability are borne out of operating our business responsibly. This is of paramount importance because it means we are in a position to fulfil our commitment to support our customers over the long term. This is what matters most to The Co-operative Bank, and during testing times, even more so to customers.

As many of our competitors are scaling back their corporate functions, The Co-operative Bank continues to invest in the business sector and offer our customers the benefits of a truly relationship-managed banking service.

Following our merger with Britannia in 2009, the teams from both organisations combined to form a single Property Finance Team. The Manchester-based team works in partnership with a range of property professionals. Our customers know they can rely on us to support them throughout the entire lifecycle of their business - not just each project. However complex their requirements, they trust that our combination of industry experience, in-depth local knowledge and wealth of financial expertise can help them define and achieve their strategic goals. And, they know they are assured of receiving an unrivalled level of personal service from someone who really understands their business - a dedicated Relationship Manager.

Throughout the last two to three years, the bank has remained open for business, as is evidenced by the number of deals we have transacted with both existing and new-to-bank customers. This shows that even in today's uncertain economic climate, we are still prepared to lend to quality companies with impressive business strategies.

In times of adversity, it is all too easy for the relationship between the financial provider and customer to break down. But at The Co-operative Bank, our priority has been to support members of the property community through uncertainty - whether economic or operational - and help position them for future growth.

Phil Basten has worked at The Co-operative Bank for 26 years and is head of property finance. He is responsible for leading a highly experienced property team of 26 specialists, including 11 relationship managers.