Ben Terrett and former GDS colleagues join the Co-operative

A team including former GDS head of design Ben Terrett and Cabinet Office director of digital Mike Bracken is aiming to turn the Co-op into “a major digital player”.

Former GDS design director Ben Terrett is joining the Co-operative as group design director
Former GDS design director Ben Terrett is joining the Co-operative as group design director

A team of former Government Digital Service directors – including former director of design Ben Terrett – are joining the Co-operative with the aim of making the organisation “a major digital player”.

Terrett, who left his GDS post in August, is moving to the Co-operative as group design director. Terrett follows Mike Bracken, former executive director of digital in Cabinet Office, who has joined the Co-operative as chief digital officer.

GDS’s former technical architect Mat Wall, strategy director Russell Davies and deputy director Tom Loosemore are also joining the team at the Co-operative.

“We’re used to working as a team”

Bracken says: “Together, Ben, Tom, Russell, Mat and I founded the Government Digital Service. With our colleagues there, and across government, we delivered, saved billions for the taxpayer, won the Design of the Year Award and – most importantly –  delivered substantially improved services for millions of people.

“We’re used to working as a team so we hope it won’t take us long to get up and going.”

Bracken says the team is joining the Co-operative with an aim of making the organisation “a world-leading digital player”.

Recreate the Co-op for a digital era

He says: “Our ambition is bold: to re-create the Co-operative for a digital era, and demonstrate a different way of doing business for an increasingly connected community.”

The Co-operative Group was set up in 1844 and runs a collection of retail business including food, insurance and legal services.

It is owned by its members, who number approximately 8 million across the UK.

Debt crisis

The business suffered a debt crisis in 2013 – posting a debt level of £1.4 billion by the end of that year. In 2014 it sold off a series of businesses, including its pharmacy and farm operations, and in April 2015 said it had reduced its debt levels by 40% and made a small profit.

Bracken says the aim of the new digital team is to be “open and agile and have a relentless focus on members”.

He points to potential changes such as communicating online with members, rather than sending letters out twice a year, which he says could save more than £500,000 each year.

Recruitment drive

Bracken says the team will continue to hire, adding: “[These] won’t be the last brilliant digital people we bring in.”

Following Bracken’s departure, the Government Digital Service is now being run by former chief operating officer Stephen Foreshew-Cain. Louise Downe has taken over as director of design.

Since its launch in beta form in 2012, the Government Digital Service’s portal has replaced hundreds of public sector sites, won a Black Pencil at the D&AD Awards and been named Design of the Year by the Design Museum.

Discover more: designer Ben Terrett leaves Government Digital Service

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