The co-operative bank has begun searching for its sixth chief executive in nine years, after incumbent andrew bester announced his resignation less than halfway through its turnround plan.

Mr bester, a former lloyds bank and standard chartered executive, joined the co-op in 2018 with a mission of returning the troubled bank to profitability after it was rescued by bondholders the previous year.

The company is only 18 months into the five-year turnround plan it outlined last year, but chairman bob dench said mr bester had ensured that we had successfully completed the fixing the basics phase.

The progress made provides the foundations for the bank to grow and to build a successful future, he added.

Mr bester said at this point, i believe the bank is on the right path and it is time for a new ceo to continue the journey to be the digital ethical bank.

The bank said mr bester has not set a date for his departure, and will remain in his position until a replacement is appointed.

The co-operative bank has struggled for more than a decade since the disastrous takeover of britannia building society in 2009, which exposed it to large numbers of bad loans and led to the discovery of a 1.5bn capital shortfall in 2013. the former mutual was taken over by hedge funds in a 700m rescue package after it failed to find a buyer.

The company reported a loss of 45m in the first half of 2020. it has not suffered from high coronavirus-related impairment charges due to its focus on very low risk mortgages, but it was forced to plan further cost cuts as record-low interest rates weigh on revenue.

In august, the company said it would close around a quarter of its branch network by the end of this year.