The last 18 months have been characterised by one crisis after another at the Co-operative Group. Rod Bulmer, chief executive, Consumer Services says the rescue phase is now over.
“We were in the hands of our banks, forcing our hand on how we manage and engage the business. Over the course of 2015 we had to take strategic decisions about which businesses would continue to be part of the group,” he said. After a “massive heart attack”, the Group looked at its purpose and vision.
As chief executive of Customer Services, Mr Bulmer’s responsibility is to build the connection between the businesses and ensure that each of the individual businesses is in line with the group’s purpose.
“Based upon where the business is today, if we don’t fundamentally rebuild it then we don’t have sufficient cash,” explained Mr Bulmer. In that regard, the Group has defined 15 key programmes, made up of the ‘Vital 5’ and ‘Winning 10’.
Of the 15 programmes, five are vital to securing a future for the business, said Mr Bulmer. The first is making membership meaningful by regaining focus on what membership is about. The Group will continue to focus on True North, its food strategy to become the number one convenience food retailer in the UK. Part of True North is a multichannel approach. It will also try to reduce extra costs by putting in place the right processes and executing them in the right manner. The Group also aims to “fix the plumbing” – to make sure IT and logistics are better supporting the needs of the business.
Another important aspect of the Vital 5 is working as one team and creating a new deal between the Co-op and colleagues.
The remaining winning 10 programmes are not necessarily less important, he added. These include growing the funeral business, transforming the general insurance business, defining co-operative legal services, making the most of data and revitalising the brand.
“The Co-op is out of crisis but a long way from being out of the woods. Consumer services sits at the very heart of the rebuild. Our challenge is to deliver this in an effective way,” Mr Bulmer concluded.