Ben Davey, CEO, Barclays UK Ventures


The Innovators of Barclays: redefining society with artificial Intelligence

25 November 2019

Ben Davey is CEO of Barclays UK Ventures, a venture capital-style unit that identifies and develops innovative business lines. From the application of machine learning to the development of a new pair of football boots, he shares what innovation means to him.

When I was 10, innovation for me was the next football boot. There was a new boot developed by a footballer called Craig Johnston that allowed you to curve a ball quite dramatically, and this was a radical thing at the time. Innovation is all about reflecting the changes that are happening in your immediate operating environment, and how you respond to the new opportunities that present themselves as a result.
There are some near-term themes and then there are things that are two or three years away but will have profound effects. At the moment, data science, the application of machine learning and AI are going to redefine society and business. We need to be absolutely at the forefront of those developments.

A little bit further down the line – but I think even more impactful if it happens – is quantum computing. We’ve spent a lot of time already at Barclays and Barclays UK Ventures talking to some of the leading quantum scientists around the world as well as many of the first quantum startups.

If quantum becomes fully viable and available for commercial purposes, it’s almost going to require us to go back to the drawing board on all aspects of our commercial model – and that won’t just be banking, that’ll be right across a range of industries.

It’s not immediate, but you’ll hear some commentators talk about it being 10 years from now, and that’s too long. It feels like three years.

Barclays and innovation

If you look back over the history of Barclays there are a number of well-remembered firsts, including the ATM and the credit card. More recently, people might remember that Pingit was the first peer-to-peer payment app, which we developed in 2012. It may be commonplace now, but it certainly wasn’t at the time.

If you think even more recently, the work we’ve done on the Barclays app has taken mobile banking way ahead of the competition and on a par with what we’re now seeing coming out of the fintechs. And then you look at the forward plans, the work that Barclays Innovation is doing, that the Rise teams are doing – looking across Barclays, some of the new product pipeline we’ve developed is just amazing.

Data science, the application of machine learning and AI are going to redefine society and business

Ben Davey

CEO, Barclays UK Ventures

Profoundly changed the direction of society

There have obviously been amazing medical developments over the years, but in terms of something that’s profoundly changed the direction of society, the internet is right up there.

If there’s one area I could pick where new innovation can make a life-changing impact it would be climate. When you look at some of the challenges that we face and you see the science clustering around a set of dire consequences – it’s a huge opportunity for technology and innovation to play a critical role. Quantum itself is likely to be providing some of the answers.