Bank boss angered by name change
The industry body for credit unions will change its name to Co-op Money NZ despite strong opposition from the similarly named Cooperative Bank.
The New Zealand Association of Credit Unions (NZACU) has trademarked the names "Co-op Money NZ", "Co-op Services NZ" and "Co-op Insurance NZ" and its board has given approval for the body to begin trading as Co-op Money NZ next month.
The Cooperative Bank chief executive Bruce McLachlan said it is concerned about the word "co-op" or "cooperative" being used in a financial services context and took exception to the NZACU's imminent name change.
"It's not welcomed and it's significantly detrimental to our brand," McLachlan said.
The Cooperative Bank was considering all its options including legal action to come to an agreement, he said.
In the past year the Cooperative Bank had spent about $4 million on marketing.
NZACU chief executive Henry Lynch said it would not want to see any attempt to stop the use of the word "co-op" or "co-operative".
"We don't want to see a situation where big banking attempts to own the word 'co-operative'," he said.
Any attempt to block the words being used in a name was a threat to all New Zealand co-operatives, he said.
The change to NZACU's trading name would help it better represent the co-operative nature of its 22 members, which includes building societies and credit unions throughout New Zealand, Lynch said.
"It's just the nature of our business. We are a co-operative. We're not in the retail banking space we're a trade association representing members."
The association had received legal advice that it was within its rights to rename itself using the word co-operative and it would not be backing down, he said.
"We will contest this commercial challenge if there is one," Lynch said, adding the association approached the Cooperative Bank to let it know about the name change.
"It was a very amicable conversation."
But the association fundamentally disagreed on the bank's stance, he said.
On a philosophical level it was important the words "co-operative" or "co-op" were free to be used by any organisation, he said.
"The co-operative organisation is public property and transcends any commercial interest," he said.
"We have absolutely no desire for there to be any confusion between our operations and the Cooperative Bank."