Barclays Bank is to consolidate its disparate private client business operations into a single international wealth management unit. The new service will take advantage of the Open Plan concept developed by Barclays' Woolwich subsidiary, which invites customers to pool their assets so that debits and credits may be offset across multiple accounts.
The new strategy will bring together existing operations (Premier, Europe, Offshore, Private Banking and Stockbrokers) into one business, Barclays Private Clients aimed at affluent individuals earning in excess of £60,000 per annum or with liquid assets of £70,000 or more for investment.
The bank's aim is by 2005 to increase client numbers from one million to 1.4 million, and to more than double assets under management from the current value of £81 billion. Barclays expects that almost half of the client number growth will come from continental Europe where it claims the top-ranked affluent banking brand.
Barclays says it conducted intensive research into the needs of the target group before setting out its strategy. The research shows that over 66 per cent of affluent individuals would prefer a single relationship for all their financial affairs, as long as they are sure they are getting access to the best value products. Over 80 per cent of clients would also like to see all their finances on one statement.
Bob Hunter, chief executive officer of Barclays Private Clients, says: "A clear message from the research is that our clients have money but not the time to manage it. Up until now, they have had to spend a lot of time shopping around at different fund managers, insurers, building societies and brokers to get the best products at the best value."
Core features of Barclays' proposition include one single relationship across banking and investment, with relationship managers offering professional and pro-active advice. Sophisticated interactive financial planning tools will also be available from early next year for clients who prefer to do their own planning.
Clients will be able to access services in any way they choose, including telephone, branch, face to face, or over the Internet. Barclays research shows that over 75 per cent of affluent clients already use two or more of telephone, branch or face to face services and 250,000 clients (25 per cent of the total) deal with Barclays on the Internet.
The bank says it will sift through 100,000 funds globally to identify the best – and then make them available to its clients at market-leading prices. Clients can also self-select through Barclays Stockbrokers, offering individual stocks and a funds exchange with over 125 unit trusts. By September, this broking service will be extended to France, making Barclays the UK’s first retail stockbroker to offer a service in Europe.
The Woolwich's Open Plan concept will be fundamental to the service from Barclays, enabling clients to bring all their finances together and rewarding them for the total value of their business. The bank says it will launch Open Plan Offset - in which a combined balance of money in clients’ current and savings accounts can be used to reduce interest calculated on their mortgage - in September 2001, in the UK. The bank anticipates that clients taking Open Plan could typically save almost £500 in annual interest payments.
The service will be rolled out across Europe later this year.
From September 2001, UK Premier clients will be able to view all their financial holdings in one online statement, which will also show third party funds and shares held in Barclays Stockbrokers nominee accounts with a daily valuation update.