Andy Booth, Barclays (UK)

UK banking is at an inflection point and Barclays is ready to seize the opportunity. 

Open banking was the phrase on everyone’s lips at the RFi Group Global Digital Banking Conference – Europe Edition last month. Big banks, challenger banks, fintechs and other industry players all shared their views on the implications for the consumer, fraud, and the financial services eco-system at large. Of the many insightful speakers of the day, Andy Booth, Managing Director, Current Accounts & FX for Barclays presented his view on impending changes to the industry. RFi Group’s Sarah Hollinshead sat down with Booth to understand fully how Barclays are positioning themselves and responding to what is viewed as one of the biggest shifts in financial services history. 

Overall, the outlook is very positive when Booth predicts the future of the banking eco-system, and Barclays’ place within it. 

“You will see a proliferation of different types of providers, both around current accounts and payments. There is no reason why Barclays cannot be at the forefront of that. The best elements of the new innovations will be built into or accessible through Barclays.”

Booth draws attention to the benefits that customers can receive through open APIs, and as the ‘caretakers’ of a mass amount of consumer data, Booth believes Barclays is able to better deliver customer experiences, and ultimately win. 

“We are custodians of customer data and we aim to keep customers at the heart of everything we do. Open banking provides a fantastic opportunity for everyone to enrich customer experiences. Through incorporating a range of services and information, we at Barclays will gain broader insights on the customer, and this will translate into more meaningful actions.”

As custodians of customers’ data, Booth believes that not only are Barclays central to delivering better services, they are responsible for the safety of consumer’s personal information. 

“Going forward, we want to be seen as the place where you can continue to be safe, both with money and data. With proliferation of services in the market and more richness of data comes complexity, and we will be at the forefront of explaining to customers how to protect themselves and make the most out of opportunities.”

Booth explains the unique level of trust that consumers have in their banks, and RFi Group data corroborates this (see page 16 for more information). Open banking could expose customers and companies to a number of risks, and Barclays believe they can play a pivotal part in combatting that risk. 

When questioned on the response time of innovation in mobile banking, in particular, compared to some of the newer, app-based players in the market, Booth believes the gap is not as wide as the media may suggest. 

“We are proving through innovations at Barclays that we can more than keep up with competitors on mobile banking and keeping millennials happy. Through our “Launchpad” function, we are evolving our mobile banking capability, testing new features amongst several thousand consumers. We fail fast and learn fast.”

We are proving through innovations at Barclays that we can more than keep up with competitors on mobile banking and keeping millennials happy. We fail fast and learn fast.

Often the cumbersome branch network of the traditional banks is referenced as a limiting factor to fast innovation, yet Booth believes the branch feedback loop is invaluable for bettering customer experiences.

“We are blessed with having a huge network of colleagues that meet customers every day. To be an outstanding bank, you have to listen to customer facing employees in contact centres or branches, as the human relationship is very important. Partnered with a strong digital side, this is the best way to serve customers.”

Barclays have seen the pivotal role of attracting the next generation, arguably the most digitally savvy, through a physical presence. Onboarding the student population and beginning that relationship early has been a large focus. 

“We are now the number one provider of student bank accounts in the UK. We have done a range of things in both digital and outside of digital. We have improved our overdraft proposition, our range of cash back and value offers and also helped young people with the skills they need to go forward into work via LifeSkills. But the best enhancement was building a bigger presence on campus. The face-to-face element here is very powerful.”

In the midst of discussing the relative merits of branch vs digital channels for the customer, Booth exclaims that this is an archaic and industry-only way to look at the financial services offering anyway!

“Throughout their journey, customers do not look at it in terms of channels. The more you move away from that lens, the better you can be at making your customers happy.”

Another myth that Booth was keen to debunk was the illusion of a bank run by a few white-haired, middle aged men trying to serve a population that they do not understand. More and more, big banks are proudly taking on a more diverse employee to better serve the UK population. 

“It is easy to have very experienced retail bankers, but in reality, you need a rich balance of people. We actively recruit and promote a broad and diverse range of people and they are well integrated into the team. In the last 12 months, we have run very special projects, managed and delivered solely by millennial employees for example, without any wider bias or input. They have delivered some fantastic work, presented directly to senior stakeholders and bank management.”

With a career in the financial services sector spanning more than 20 years, and now looking after some of the most potentially disrupted areas of retail banking: current accounts and international payments, Booth is excited by the changes to the industry, and anticipates a fun ride ahead.

“It is a fascinating place to be. The next 3-5 years are going to be the most exciting period for banking, both for customers, bankers, and for Barclays.”

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