Barclays marketing head Jamie Bullock on leveraging the best of the brand in the digital space

Jamie Bullock, head of marketing - intermediaries, international and direct at Barclays, has just been announced as a judge for the 2013 Dadi Awards. Here he tells The Drum about the financial services provider's goal of becoming the ‘Go To’ bank, explaining Barclays' digital strategy and his expectations for this year's awards.

How is the 'Go To' strategy developing Barclays as a brand online?

For me ‘Go To’ means making a transformational step change leveraging the best of Barclays in the digital space. ‘Go To’ also means digital solutions first and foremost designed for the customer – solutions which are as much about integration as innovation and that seek to create differentiated customer experiences which add value to customer interactions with the business. If we think about the retail businesses for example, Barclays has market leading banking, investment and credit card franchises, and part of ‘Go To’ is integrating these into a more seamless client experience.

In our direct to consumer investment business, in the UK specifically, our ‘Go To’ digital strategy is ultimately to drive a step change in the industry by democratising wealth management and making long term investments and financial planning accessible to everyone who has the inclination or desire to manage their own investments. Ultimately this means using our digital resources and capabilities to give our customers the confidence and tools to be able to take control of their investments, how and when they want, whilst providing a digital platform which facilities the transactional elements of the client journey as painlessly and easily as possible.

The digital landscape has become so fragmented. It’s multi-screen and mobile owns the big impact. The capacity for individuals to interact with brands and their social networks is becoming more squeezed. For us it’s about trying to make the functional aspects of what we do as frictionless as possible but also really try and become part of people’s everyday activities so that they don’t feel that they have to step out of what they’re doing day-to-day to do their financial planning or look at their banking. We want that element of what they do to be integrated into their wider activities.

How difficult is it to affect such a behavioural change?

If you think about financial planning more generally, it was an offline experience. The behaviours that some of the audiences are used to are annual or biannual – sit down, make some decisions and forget about it for a year. Actually, what we need to do is to make these activities things that are done on an on-going basis, that are sliced down into a more palatable activities which don’t require you to sit at a desktop and do them for four hours once a year. We want people to go online and check their accounts and at the same time check their investments, and when they see a piece of content make a decision on their portfolio and it becomes a more intuitive process. So far it’s been a monolithic process once a year of sorting out a person’s finances.

Does the growth of mobile make this more achievable?

We’re still trying to work out what the optimal place for mobile to sit within the landscape. There are elements of investing or financial planning that do require a degree of heavy lift, and there are elements which can be done on the go. We’re still in the process of integrating mobile into that journey. What we’ve found is that we’re very good at the display elements of the customer journey on mobile, so you can check stuff and see what’s happening, but you can’t change or optimise in that environment. From our perspective we have to make sure we get the mobile element right and that it becomes an integrated part of the customer journey but also allows you to manage activity where appropriate rather than monitor.

What digital platforms are key to the future success for the brand?

The media landscape has become all the more fragmented. Consumers' interactions are multi-screen and multi-device and the overarching strategy is to look at the non-desktop interactions and how they integrate into the customer journey. Social media platforms are an interesting one for us because there are a number of restrictions in financial services which we need to be aware of in terms of creating the digital strategy. Mobile is definitely one of them and tablet integration is another area, but I see those as a holistic channel.

So is Barclays moving away from focusing on desktop?

At the moment about 85 per cent of our interactions are on desktop and to a certain extent you’re not going to get away from that because, if you are managing a portfolio where you are transacting quite important parts of your financial wellbeing, that will always be there. For us, we need to work out where on the customer journey we can enhance the desktop experience by introducing mobile and where we can move the optimisation activities, ie transacting, changing, buying and selling, away from that monetary piece. Anyone can go show a mobile device which gives you the size of a portfolio. For us it’s about how we integrate that with a customer’s banking and the transactional elements of what we do.

How about real-time advertising and buying? How reactionary is Barclays becoming with its messaging?

If you look at financial services historically, it’s been pretty linear. So we push the message out, we don’t ask for a response and we move on. Where the market is going though, we have this real-time interaction across a variety of different channels – paid, owned, earned. It’s definitely something we’re looking at. From our perspective, clearly we work under a number of restrictions from a financial services perspective. Every single one of our communications can be considered a financial communication and that does restrict our ability to react in real-time because we do have to adhere to a number of processes in terms of those messages. Where we want to get to is to make those interactions as real-time as possible. That’s especially important given the market we work in, which is investments, which is obviously insanely real-time. We are in social media now through Twitter and we are doing things we haven’t done in the past. The mindset is changing from this ‘fire-and-forget’ approach to this ongoing collegiate, participatory communication. We’re not just pushing messages out, we’re also receiving them. Those messages are changed and tailored depending on the environment they are going out in.

What process do you have to go through when sending a tweet, for example?

We work under the FCA and regulation in the past has struggled to keep up with changing communications channels. Regulation has now caught up with social media and from our perspective there are some explicit rules around those messages within financial operations and therefore have to go through the relevant sign off processes that we have internally to meet those restrictions. Anyone can send a tweet and make a decision based on that, so it has to work in isolation. We can’t expect a message that has been tweeted and might not adhere to the financial rules, and then rely on a message later in the customer journey to make up for that. Each and every communication has to work in isolation – so for example a tweet has to include a risk warning which makes that more difficult if potentially we’re talking about products or services that require our Facebook and LinkedIn activity to be aware of that. So it does put some restrictions around what we can do in social media. It’s a bit of a moving feast at the moment and one we’re on a journey on.

How do you glean insight from large amounts of customer data?

We're probably in a slightly better position than many other industries in terms of the customer insight that we have. We have specific teams dedicated to customer insight and data. The potential difficulty for us is the volume of information that we have and integrating that information and deriving actionable intelligence from it. We have a systems legacy that allows us to do that and the big challenge for any financial services company is tying the data together because we do have banking data and investments data and sometimes they don't talk to each other. So for us it's about tying that together into as cohesive a whole as possible.

What's the future for high street banking?

I can relate that back to a more specific example around Stock Brokers, which is both an online business and a contact centre as there are some activities clients would rather speak to a person than do online. That will always be an important part of the interactions we have, especially when talking about something as emotional and tangible as financial services. From a Barclays perspective there are a number of cloud-based versions of branches, so Sky branches is something that we're looking at. In the future there will always be an element of bricks and mortar or personal interaction regardless of where they are on the client journey. There will always be that requirement. For us we have to make sure that it's at the right point for the right things.

As a judge at this year's Dadi Awards, what are you expecting to see from this year's entries?

This is my first Dadi Awards and what I'd like to see is smart solutions to problems. I'd like to see both innovation and integration in terms of people's approach. I'm a great believer in keeping things simple and smart and if I see that then that is what will resonate with me.

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