Barclays is a major global financial services provider engaged in personal banking, credit cards, corporate and investment banking and wealth and investment management. With over 300 years of history and expertise in banking, Barclays operates in over 50 countries and employs approximately 140,000 people.
Barclays has a strong track record in innovation. For example, it created the UK's first ATM and introduced the country's first credit card. In recent years, it has set up a design function to work across the entire group and appointed a Chief Design Officer. At Barclays, design is regarded as a means to connect with customers and their needs.
The Chief Design Officer argues that “our insights are informed based on [customers’] behaviours and … not necessarily what they tell us in focus groups, but it’s the observation of their behaviours in their environment that we try to design around."
According to the Digital Director, its designers “are looking for opportunity wherever it exists, and not just looking for obvious places where the business would like to look.”
The group sees design also as a way to create a more emotional connection with customers and, in the words of the Group Design Director, to provide services that customers want as well as ones “they didn’t know they needed”. For example, the company is currently exploring biometric technology.
Banking is not an industry one would typically associate with design. However, the financial crisis, and the introduction of new regulations and technological innovations are changing a fairly inward looking and commoditised industry.
In this scenario, Barclays took the decision to aim to be the most design focused and technologically cutting-edge bank in order to deliver the best products, services and experiences for its clients and customers in a rapidly changing world.
For a company like Barclays, the brand is what customers experience when they interact with the bank. According to the Group Design Director, it is very important for a brand to “come alive in … your experience patterns and your design language ... That really has to be thought through. There’s a real art to that.”
Therefore, design plays an important role in creating the products, the services and the experiences that the brand is built on. In the words of the Chief Design Officer, “marketing officially owns and protects the brand, but we work intimately with them to ensure that our design language, our design thinking, our design process fits intimately with the overall brand at Barclays.”
The choice to invest in design and technology was strongly influenced by positive experiences gained in the bank’s retail segment, and the appointment of Antony Jenkins – previously Chief Executive of Retail and Business banking – as Group Chief Executive.
According to the Chief Design Officer, “the thing that sets Barclays apart at the moment is, all the way to the top, to the CEO, [people are] embracing the entrepreneur start-up approach in which design plays a fundamental role. Such support is demonstrated through active engagement in projects."
According to the Chief Design Officer, investing in design and focusing on improving customer experiences can lead to higher net promoter scores, which, in turn, drive higher income and reduce complaints, thereby lowering costs. For example, the Barclays Mobile Banking App net promoter score has been steadily climbing upwards and “that’s simply by bringing the retail and cards experience together in a brilliant experience and design for the customer in a mobile banking application that’s seamless and easy for them to use.”
Barclays Pingit is a mobile payment service that allows customers to send and receive money using a mobile phone number. Traditionally, a waterfall method would have been followed to create this product, starting from technical requirements and sequentially working on design, implementation and verification, culminating with the launch of a product inclusive of all features.
However, such a process would have been too time consuming in this instance. Therefore, as the Head of Design says, the development team thought: “What if we did it differently? What if we did it like a start-up? What if we said: you don’t have to work on anything else, just Pingit? And you’re going to roll up your sleeves and sit at the same table with the operations guy and the coder and the developers and the marketing guys? We’re all going to sit together and make decisions and build this product.”
This more collaborative approach allowed a much faster time to market. Interestingly, despite tight deadlines, the development was much more grounded in customer insight than usual.
Pingit has now been downloaded 2 million times, has won over 20 awards for innovation in the banking space and is proving a commercial success. It has also enhanced the brand through delivering a differentiating, innovative service for customers that makes their lives easier.