Steven Cooper, Personal Banking Chief Executive, Barclays

The evolution of retail banking

16 January 2017

“We will only be successful if customers are at the heart of our business,” says Steven Cooper, CEO for Personal Banking at Barclays, whose team oversee the accounts of 17 million people.

That may sound at first like a simple goal for a long-established banking institution, but at a time when the lightning-fast advance of technology is altering our everyday lives – and our expectations of customer service in every sphere – it is in fact a highly complex, and multi-faceted challenge.

To emphasise the transformation, Cooper – who is at the forefront of Barclays’ efforts to innovate and improve its service – notes that at the time of the Olympic Games in London in 2012, Barclays had no mobile banking customers. Now, more than five million users fulfil their banking needs through the Barclays Mobile Banking (BMB) app – and that number is growing every day.

Citing disruptors in other industries, Cooper says: “What this shows is technology is evolving rapidly, which means banking must too. If you can Skype your relatives for free, you expect to be able to video call your bank.

"If you can order a takeaway at the touch of a button, a business expects to order cash collections at the touch of a button.

"We need to match rising customer expectations in the round, because what they see in one part of their lives they expect to have mirrored in another.

“Unless we can keep up with the highest customer expectations and the fastest movers both inside and outside of the financial services industry, we will lose out to competitors who can.”

Cooper says Barclays has been using technology to find solutions that can “meet and exceed customers’ expectations of us”. He looks at the simplification of the journey of getting a loan through the Barclays app as an example of something that frees up colleagues to deal with issues where customers prefer face-to-face interaction.

Cooper sees opportunity to improve customer service by concentrating on the overlap between the traditional and the technological, with developments such as face-to-face video banking: “We want to offer the know-how and personal attention of the old-fashioned bank manager but with all the benefits of the very latest technology.

“Customers expect us to be with them whenever, wherever and however they want, with the right personalised insights at the right time. That’s our challenge, but also our great opportunity – to create experiences in banking that are just as rich as you find elsewhere in life.”

Also high on Cooper’s agenda is ensuring that “no one is left behind on the digital journey”. He cites Barclays’ successful Digital Eagles programme, which has so far trained 16,000 colleagues to provide free technology advice to over a million customers and non-customers.

“We know we have a lot of work to do but it’s the passion of our colleagues, married with digital technology, that helps us join the dots and provide the deep relationships, built on trust, that deliver value for our customers,” he says.

“That’s our goal, and our opportunity.”

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