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Covid-19: Barclays CEO signals end of the skyscraper and rebirth of the branch

Covid-19: Barclays CEO signals end of the skyscraper and rebirth of the branch

As Covid-19-fearing, social-distancing conscious CEOs abandon packed skyscrapers, the humble branch, long expected to go the way of the dodo, could find a second lease of life as a place to house call centre workers and investment bank staffers, according to Barclays CEO Jes Staley.

Barclays currently has around 70,000 of it staff around the world working from home during the Covid-19 lockdown.

Even once the immediate threat has subsided, there will be a "long-term adjustment about how we think about our locations,” Staley said on a conference call after the bank reported first quarter earnings.

“The notion of putting 7000 people in a building may be a thing of the past," says Staley.

Instead, investment bankers and call centre workers could end up at smaller locations, such as branches, signalling an end to long commutes.

Barclays, like almost all large banks has been busy reducing the size of its branch network as customers migrate to digital channels - a trend that could be accelerated by the pandemic.

Comments: (4)

David Mooney
David Mooney - Alliant Credit Union - Chicago 29 April, 2020, 18:07Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

Does it make financial sense to house contact center staff in (expensive) retail space?

Philippe Guenet
Philippe Guenet - Henko - Reigate 30 April, 2020, 09:121 like 1 like

There are already -and that has existed for a very long time- contact centres that operate distributed from home. 

I think that the transition back will be much more telling than the lockdown itself. Digital businesses have proven that they can still function remotely during the lockdown. This also means that they will be the last ones to really justify going back to full office work. What will be the point as well to go into an office in split work when one would have to collaborate "remotely" with the rest from the office. 

This situation is probably opening the door to become serious about virtual work / telecommuting as a permanent feature of the work.

With this in mind I think that senior leadership has not grasped the needs for Digital collaboration. The emergence of people using Zoom for instance (because it has considerably stronger features than the likes of Skype) has been clamped down on security concerns. Same goes for using collaborative boards which are all Cloud base, with no inhouse alternatives most of the time. 

Digital work also offer many advantages to attract/retain talents as work flexibility will become very attractive and it is possible to get workforce from anywhere. 

Time is to seriously explore effective digital collaborative set-ups, time to coach the teams using them well as the situation is indeed going to make a big change in the running of digital businesses. 

Roxanne Pocha
Roxanne Pocha - LHM - London 30 April, 2020, 12:50Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

This could prove the perfect time for large and small organisations to really reconsider both how and why they carry out some of the functions that they do.

The digital era should enable commerce to be truly global and to allow organisations to collaborate on a previously unseen scale, choosing the best partners for their enterprise, thereby allowing the organisation itself to concentrate on its core services. The idea of being able to conduct every servcie to an outstanding level from within one building, never was a reality but it did allow the Board to control their people and practices.

Perhaps it's time to truly reinvent the delivery of commerce and to allow third parties to enable established businesses, as well as themselves, to shine. The recent collaborations between fintechs during this crisis to get funds into the hands of those that need it most, is a great example of what can be achieved when we leave bureaucracy and old-school thinking behind and use technology as an enabler to answer human needs.

Ketharaman Swaminathan
Ketharaman Swaminathan - GTM360 Marketing Solutions - Pune 30 April, 2020, 13:16Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

The comeback of bank branch is one of the least expected outcomes of the pandemic. I have been appealing to banks to improve the CX of digital banking so as to reduce traffic to branches.