Over the past few months, the Britannia Building Society office at the top of Abbeygate Street has slowly morphed into a branch of the Co-operative Bank.
This is quite handy because Co-op Bank branches are fairly few and far between and the nearest one for us at home was previously in Cambridge.
Of course, we (that’s not a royal ‘we’, it’s a joint account) can only hope that the Bury St Edmunds branch survives the bank’s turmoil and proposed restructuring.
We joined the Co-op Bank several years ago after being treated (we thought) rather shabbily by another, much bigger High Street institution which has since had its own problems with a senior figure.
It seemed to offer a more old-fashioned service – simple products, not particularly competitive but a straightforward way of doing things and, rare at the time, UK-based call centres.
And, of course, by becoming members of the Co-op we were sort of co-owners.
That’s all rather up in the air now and we’re just keeping our fingers crossed that things work out, post-financial crisis and post-Sir Paul Flowers. Hopefully the business will survive the antics of a single man and not follow in the footsteps of Ratners.
We’ve inadvertently become rather ‘enmeshed’ in the co-operative movement – banking, fuel, insurance, shopping etc but I must admit that until recently I didn’t realise there are actually quite a number of Co-ops in the UK, the Co-operative Group, which runs the bank, being the largest .
For example, our fuel comes from The Midcounties Co-operative, while the East Anglia Co-op is the region’s largest retailer.
All these followed on from the Rochdale Pioneers, who set up the first retail co-operative society in 1844.
Now, I suppose the whole movement must be holding its breath, hoping not to be tarred with the same brush as the bank.
-- The child in me took over slightly last Thursday and I slipped out of the office for a few minutes to see the penguins brought into town for the Christmas lights switch-on. I have a soft spot for these cheerful chappies – perhaps I identify with the bemused look they seem to permanently have on their faces.