Despite the mass migration of banking services to mobile devices, Barclays' managing director for mobile banking and Pingit, Darren Foulds, has insisted that high-street bank branches are “critical” for the business and “a fundamental part of what we do”.
Speaking at The Drum’s Digital Disruption Day event, Foulds said Barclays views its high-street branches as more than a place to provide services to customers, since it implemented the Digital Eagles scheme to teach those who haven’t yet made the shift to digital how to use emails or Skype.
“The bank branches are really critical for us, fundamentally we have bank branches on most major high streets, and they are the point at which people want to come in to and get advice around the services.
"Also we have to recognise that digital adoption to this point has been very broad in terms of the demographic, but there are still many people who rely on the branch in terms of getting advice and having the security of that physical place.”
Foulds predicted that the role of branches will evolve in the future as consumers use them less and in different ways but will always exist, adding "branches have a huge role to play both for Barclays and for the community."
In 2012 Barclays launched mobile payment service Pingit, which allows users to send and receive money via a mobile phone number, something that Foulds said has evolved from being used purely by consumers to a consumer/merchant proposition, with hopes to establish Pingit in the payments sector.
“This year we’ll send about £650m of payments through the system. Effectively what we’re seeing is it has evolved from a consumer based proposition into a broader consumer to merchant based proposition, so we’ll continue to evolve the use cases around how consumers can pay simply, and make that a really frictionless process. That’s really what our goal is in terms of building Pingit into the UK payments system.”
Speaking about the advancement of digital payments and currencies, such as bitcoin, Foulds eschewed the notion that we will become a cashless society due to the fact that digital adoption, through wide spread, is not embraced by all of the population.
“Physical currency will be around for a long time,” he commented. “While there’s been massive advances in innovations in payments, and we’re seeing loads of new entrants into the marketplace, fundamentally there will still be a place for physical cash.
“And that’s driven by the level of customer adoption; we have to recognise that the population as a whole is not totally digital and the adoption curve for that is going to take some time for the people to become aware of the benefits of digital. Not just in terms of digital money but there’s still a lot of people who don’t know how to email or how to shop online.”
Next week Barclays is set to become the first UK bank to roll out a face-to-face video banking service letting customers communicate with employees from their mobiles, tablets or laptops.