While rivals Royal Bank of Scotland and Lloyds flirt
with possible full nationalisation, Barclays, far from out of
trouble itself having announced 5,000 job cuts in 2009, has
nonetheless hit the depressed UK market with some innovative ideas
and products all underscored by a new brand

Bang in the middle of one of the world’s most troubled banking
markets – and, at 30 percent of total balance sheet assets, one of
the most nationalised – is not a great place to be. But the UK’s
third-largest retail bank, Barclays, has nonetheless upped the ante
– and it is putting technological innovation at the forefront of
its strategy.

The group has revealed ambitious plans for contactless payments
in the country, becoming the first UK bank to launch contactless
functionality on its Visa-branded debit cards. It has also
confirmed it will launch a fully-functional mobile banking service
later in the year and has rolled out an innovative, hi-tech
‘showcase’ branch in the middle of London. The various
announcements coincided with plans to refresh the Barclays brand,
with advertising efforts concentrated on flagging up its
innovations in contactless and online technology.UK-percentage of total assets controlled by the state, top nine banking groups

A bank spokeswoman told RBI that the introduction of
mobile banking, mentioned initially in this publication last
September (see RBI 599), will
take place in 2009 with a mobile peer-to-peer payments service
planned by the end of next year. The step-up into mobile banking
follows the lead of its South African subsidiary Absa, which has
enjoyed great success with its m-banking offering with around
800,000 customers by mid-2008 (see RBI

By March, the bank said, all new debit cards issued and cards
reissued due to expiry will have contactless functionality included
as a standard compulsory feature, with more than 3 million
customers expected to be using contactless debit cards by the end
of 2009. The bank’s credit card arm, Barclaycard, was the first to
introduce contactless technology on credit cards in the UK in 2007
with the launch of OnePulse, the three-in-one travel payment card,
credit and contactless card which was a runner-up in the product
category in last year’s RBI industry awards (see RBI

The contactless debit card will have a transaction limit of £10
($14.61), with payments debited directly from customers’ current
accounts, but the bank said that periodic prompts will be
introduced for PIN numbers to verify the cardholder’s identity.
Over 8,000 UK retailers have already installed contactless
technology, including Pret A Manger, Coffee Republic, EAT, Books
etc. and Krispy Kreme, with numbers expected to grow rapidly during
the year.

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Barclays will also press ahead with its multi-million pound
investment in its UK branch network, one of the most ambitious
projects of its type in the UK to date. The programme will receive
a high-profile boost with the official launch at the end of January
of what the bank calls its first ‘brand concept’ branch in the UK,
bang in the middle of London. The 8,000 square foot outlet, which
covers three floors, is the first branch in Europe to pilot
Microsoft Surface software. The technology allows users to grab
digital content with their hands and navigate information about
Premier banking with simple gestures and touches.

Another major feature of the branch is Being:London, an
interactive and evolving installation representing London. A large
video wall graphically represents London using content from blogs
and customer interests while personal consoles will enable people
to contribute to the installation.

Outside of opening hours, the front of the branch will be
transformed into a ‘Night Life’ screen, which picks up the image of
passers using face recognition technology and cameras and creates
moving silhouettes on the screen together with thought bubbles
containing random messages.

The branch is the first Barclays branch to have open cashier
counters with no glass screens. Handheld PCs will allow
floor-walking staff to help customers with many queries without the
need to wait. Moreover, the branch will be open seven days a week
from 9am to 7pm Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm on Saturdays and 12pm
to 5pm on Sundays.


New UK TV campaign… but what about

In terms of marketing, Barclays’ plans for the year will include
its first major television ad campaign since Barclaycard’s chief
marketing officer, Libby Chambers, was promoted to a group role as
chief marketing officer for Barclays Global Retail and Commercial
Banking division in May 2008.

Persistent press rumours that it will not renew its current
three-year deal to sponsor English football’s premier league
competition have yet to be confirmed by the bank.

“We are only halfway through our current sponsorship of the
Barclays Premier League which runs into 2010. The sponsorship
continues to be very successful for us and the Premier League and
we look favourably on renewal although those discussions will be
confidential,” a bank spokeswoman told RBI. The bank paid
£65.8 million in February 2007 for the three-year rights deal.

A review of the bank’s entire and extensive portfolio of sports
sponsorship deals is, however, ongoing. This includes golf’s
Scottish Open and Singapore Open and the Barclays Dubai Tennis