Barclays banks on £1bn investment to boost global retail business

Barclays banks on £1bn investment to boost global retail business

Barclays is planning to invest around £1 billion in its global retail banking operations over the next four years, completing its branch network overhaul and pushing new technologies such as mobile and contactless.

The UK bank created a Global Retail Banking division late last year as part of a major organisational shake-up, putting former Barclaycard boss Antony Jenkins in charge.

At an investor seminar outlining his strategy for the new unit, Jenkins revealed plans to add up to four million retail customers by 2013, expanding in all 21 markets in which Barclays operates.

Last year the bank's retail unit had 37 million customers and posted a pre-tax profit of £1.8 billion, 39% of which was generated in the UK. It is pushing for "strong" profit growth over the next few years and a return on equity of 13% to 15% for retail banking.

To help reach the target, the firm is planning to invest around £250 million a year for the next four years, introducing new technology and completing its UK branch refurbishment programme.

Jenkins says 50% of the bank's 17,000 branches have been upgraded in the last three years, claiming that "growth in new current accounts in our refurbished branches in the UK is on average double that of branches awaiting investment".

He also trumpeted Barclays' investment in new technology, claiming it has built a market leading position, attracting half a million visitors to the UK mobile banking site and issuing eight million contactless cards.

Says Jenkins: "As delivery through Internet and mobile banking increases, the role of the branch is being redefined from transactional to customer orientated. I believe that we're at a fork in the road driven by these changes.

"We can go on optimising what we currently do, or we can take advantage of these changes. I'm confident that we're better placed than others to take advantage, thanks to the strength of our brand, our scale, and our track record. Over the next few years we want to move from being a "me-too" bank to being the "go-to" bank."

Africa

At the same seminar, Vinit Chandra, CEO, Barclays Africa, outlined the bank's move towards a single technology platform across all 10 countries in which it operates on the continent.

The migration will be completed by 2012, providing a single view of customers, improved processes and controls and detailed management information, including customer profitability, says Chandra.

At the same time, the bank is centralising operations in Africa to create centres of excellence in specific domains such as payments, reconciliation and early fraud detection.

These projects are being helped by improved infrastructure in the region, notably the introduction of Seacom, a fibre optic link across the East Coast of Africa which is increasing reliability, speed and bandwidth for moving data.

"Implementing these operational improvements will realise significant savings across all 10 markets delivering a reduction of about 15% in cost per account by 2013," says Chandra.

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