‘Co-op board needs more marketing expertise’

The Co-operative Group needs more marketing expertise on its board if it is to secure its future, according to a report into its governance, a call that comes just over a month after its group marketing director was stood down from its management board. 

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Lord Myners’ report into Co-op’s governance says skill-sets such as marketing are under-represented on its board.

In a wide-ranging review of the troubled Group’s structure, Lord Myners says the Co-op board’s marketing representation does not compare well with rivals.

He says: “The boards of TCG’s major competitors typically have a mix of the following skill sets –finance, risk management, marketing, specialist retail knowledge, technology and communications, personnel and legal skills and property expertise.

“While the current Group Board does include members with general skills in some of these areas – accounting qualifications, for example – their collective experience base is nowhere near the required level.”

Group marketing director Gill Barr was stood down from the Co-op’s management board in March but maintained her responsibility for marketing strategy.  She reports to chief external affairs officer Nick Folland, who was promoted to board-level in a wider shake-up.

Lord Myners’ report concludes that the present governance architecture and allocation of responsibilities is “not fit for purpose”.

He calls for a “highly competent and qualified” group board to be setup “with independent non-executive directors who possess the skills and experience needed to exercise leadership and effective oversight of executive management running a business of massive scale and complexity, quite unlike any other co-operative business in the UK.”

His proposals will be voted on by Co-op members at its AGM on 17 May.  

Lord Myners was appointed by the Group’s board in December 2013 to carry out the review in the wake of a series of scandals including the near collapse of its banking business and the arrest and subsequent charge of the Co-op Bank’s former chairman Paul Flowers for possession of drugs.

Co-op’s interim chief executive Richard Pennycook recently admitted the Group had had a “disastrous” 2013 after racking up losses of £2.5bn. 

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