The January Members’ Council meeting in 2018

Steve Murrells’ presentation
Steve Murrells gave the first presentation of the meeting and he used this opportunity to share his 5 year plan with the Members’ Council. Steve started by telling the Council how he wants a Co-op that will deliver both commercially and co-operatively. The thinking behind the decisions on what our co-op does will need to encompass these two key components.

01 Steve Murrells

Steve also explained that the next phase of transforming the Co-op will focus on business growth which ensures that we reflect what the communities we serve need. To achieve growth, the Co-op will need to look at corporate costs and address duplication of work. He then told the Council that he plans to see how the Co-op can do more with the business sectors where it already has a presence.

Funeralcare and Insurance are particularly likely to see change and innovation in the coming 5 years. This time may well also include a new venture or two, but any investment will be measured and tested as it is developed to see whether it should be taken further or not. The Co-op is investing in the pay of its colleagues as well as in training, to ensure it has equipped the people who work for the Co-op to perform well. Membership itself is expected to change and evolve to reflect what members need and to attract new members under Matt Atkinson’s charge, but we will hear more about this once he has been in his new job for a bit longer.

The big presentation on Food
Convenience is working really well for the Co-op, but it will need to stay alert and adapt to emerging trends. Ensuring that Food has great stock availability is also really important for the business.

02 Food
Going forward, stores will receive more support when they ask for what their members and their customers really need. Looking at wholesale, franchising will enable the Co-op to increase its presence in a cost-effective way.

Jo and her colleagues did go into more detail than this, but to put it in writing might help our commercial competitors. The main theme of her presentation was how innovation can improve our stores.

Ian Ellis’s presentation on Funerals and Insurance
When it comes to Funeralcare, Ian covered price, later-life planning, facilities, and how the Co-op can be market leaders rather than just being the biggest. Improvements in Funeralcare could also prove helpful for Independent Societies once those improvements are fully developed.

Ian advised the Council that there is room for growth in Insurance and mentioned the route that this growth might go down. Unfortunately, the detail on this is commercially sensitive.

Steve Murrells on colleagues
Steve wants to ensure colleague engagement and wellbeing, including help for colleagues who are facing illness or any debts they may have. He is a firm believer in the training and development of Co-op colleagues. 20 new apprentices have joined Insurance and they will be paid at the full rate of pay rather than the apprentice rate – as with all apprentices at the Co-op. Meanwhile, the Executive team now has fewer people focused on doing bigger jobs. Colleagues with responsibility for budgets are all told to remember that it’s members money they are dealing with / spending.

Questions and answers with senior management
‘One Co-op’ is a reference to how the Co-op itself will work and is not intended to imply anything about the Independent Societies’ relationship to the Co-op. Steve Murrells is very happy to see the strength of independents working together with the muscle of the Co-op as it is at present. He is also very happy to listen to, and combine forces with, the Independent Societies where appropriate – that being the sixth principle after all.

Jo advised the Council that there will indeed be clear and strict criteria around letting others sell our own brand products, in order to protect the brand and she gave an example of that criteria.

Shoplifting is an issue and the Co-op have reduced this by nearly 15% over the last few years. The Food business will work closely with police to further reduce thefts from stores. The Co-op are also engaging with the freedom from fear campaign by Usdaw.

John Dalley on Member Capital
John gave an update to the Council on Co-operatives UK’s Members Money Project.
Co-ops UK have done some work to see if there is a possibility of using co-op shares to allow Societies to offer members a type of fixed term share bond.

03 Member Capital

Some other societies already have share bonds for their members, but any money in these bonds can be withdrawn by the members before the fixed term is finished. The project is nearing completion and the work done so far indicates that societies will soon have a Co-ops UK approved option to issue a fixed-term share, similar to a bond, which is not withdrawable by members until the end of the fixed term.

Co-ops UK have worked in consultation with the Financial Conduct Authority to make sure the paperwork to support these fixed term shares is appropriate. The share bonds are not a financial product like an ISA, instead they are a way to support the society. John also mentioned that any investments under this scheme would not receive the same protections given to financial products by the Government.

Directors’ Q&A
These questions covered: the financial return on selling Noma, the use of outsourcing, and when the dividend may come back, among other subjects.

04 Directors Forum

Member Nominated Director elections
So far there is a Long List of 9 qualified candidates, a shortlist will follow after they have been interviewed. The aim is to ensure that there is a contested election for the two available positions in 2018.

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