Ashok Vaswani

Insights: Ashok Vaswani

09 August 2018

“When history is written, 2018 will go down as a seminal year for retail banking,” says Ashok Vaswani, CEO of Barclays UK. Here, he offers five key insights into how the opportunities to deliver for the customer have really opened up from the potential of artificial intelligence to the boom in fintech partnerships.

1. Open banking is (finally) ready to take off

It’s been fascinating turning a bank from an analogue to a digital company. A bank like ours which has got the tradition and in-built relationships with customers, has got the most favoured mobile app in the country and the largest digital customer base in the country, we look at open banking as a huge opportunity.

If customers love our app, why wouldn’t they consolidate all their financial relationships onto that app? And if we can with that data help them improve their financial situation – it can be fantastic for the customer and wonderful for us.

Ultimately, open banking comes down to how much customers trust you and what you do with their data – and we’re never going to sell data to third parties, we’re only going to use it to provide value back to our customers. This year, we’ve been getting the rails in place to facilitate open banking – and it’s about to take off. Watch this space…

2. The challengers are out there, but customers trust us

There is talk of competition to legacy banks from challenger banks, fintechs and tech giants, but our customers trust us with their data and their financial lives.

We caught the wave early and have been transforming our tech architecture. Change has been in our DNA – think of us as an incumbent with a challenger mindset.

We’ve been told by customers and independent research that we have the best mobile app in the country, and we already have 10.5 million people in our digital estate. Provided we can bring more value, there is no reason for them not to consolidate with us.

Ashok Vaswani

3. We need an ethical ‘charter’ for AI

Artificial intelligence as a concept is not new, but in today’s environment the ability to do things at scale, with massive amounts of data, and come out with quick insights is extraordinary. There are many real life, everyday use cases of AI that can make a difference to customers.

One thing I’m paying a lot of attention to though is the ethics of artificial intelligence. Even before we get into mass-deployment, we have to consider what charter are we going to have – and then we should publish that charter. That work is happening now.

4. Tech is about making life simpler for customers, not more complicated

As a philosophy, we want to stay ahead, because we think leveraging technology can make us more efficient. If you think about it, finance and money are just a means to an end.

A customer doesn’t get out of bed jumping to get a loan – the customer wants the loan as a means to get a home or a car. Everything we do that makes that more complex makes the customer think worse of us. Seamlessly fitting in with our customers is our goal, and if technology makes that better, then that’s great.

If you get it right by the customer, everything else will fall into place. If the customer is living in a different age – living their life on new devices – we’ve got to be there.

5. Partnering with fintechs is a win for everyone

These partnerships are not decisions that are taken likely. We’ve created various platforms like Rise and Eagle Labs that mean we see a lot of technology companies who are coming up with exciting ideas.

We’ve created a standard design language, and also Launchpad – a version of our mobile app that allows companies to test their ideas on a working version of our app with real customers. If the customers love it, it’s a simple process to convert it to our main app. If they don’t, the company still gets important feedback.

I’m very excited, for example, by our partnership with MarketInvoice. They have a great platform and are doing really well, while we have over one million SMEs. So, bringing that together is a win for MarketInvoice, a win for us and of course a win for our customers.

It’s another win/win.