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 / Summer 2007 / Issue 47(originally published by Booz & Company)


Barclays’ Global Acceleration

When Frits Seegers, chief executive of GRCB, first looked at our customer base, he said, “I can’t believe how narrow our relationship is with them.” Customers who thought of us as their bank often had only one or two accounts with us, and the rest with competitors. Today, the “universal banking” principle continually pushes us to make it easier for customers to do more business with us.

For example, the Open Plan program, which we have now made available in many markets, allows customers to reduce their mortgage costs by offsetting them against the money they hold in savings and checking accounts. The typical savings — about £700 per year for every £100,000 borrowed — reduces our margins, but it leads to a big increase in the number of products people hold.

Other examples include our investments in a single online interface to enable customers to oversee their credit card accounts, mortgages, investments, and bank accounts together. Extracting interstitial value requires great management skill and a streamlined organization. We have halved the size of the Barclays executive committee (to five members) and decentralized operations so that many more decisions are made locally.

  • Creating Focused Points of Strategic Control and Direction. In 2004, we combined the investment banking, asset management, and wealth management groups into one “cluster” (IBIM). This has allowed the team leading IBIM (under Robert Diamond, president of Barclays) more latitude in reaching out to today’s financial-services customers, who increasingly need all three services together. We can now more easily use the know-how developed in asset management and investment banking to invigorate the wealth business; wealthy clients, who were previously served by a traditional stockbroker model, now have access to the same comprehensive advice and innovative products developed by Barclays for institutional clients.

The other cluster (GRCB), led by Frits Seegers, addresses the increasingly homogeneous needs of retail consumers and businesses around the world.

  • Executing a People-Based Agenda. We focus attention on the husbandry of talent because we recognize that the quality of our advice and innovation is the primary source of our value to customers. If you’re the CFO of a listed company with a defined-benefit pension scheme that is heavily in deficit, then you want specialist — not generalist — advice; you need the best advisors in the market. We seek to create a good balance of talent development from within the organization and selective recruitment from outside. The group president’s board responsibilities include championing talent and making sure that Barclays continues to deliver on an increasingly challenging human resources agenda.
  • Putting Customer Relationships First. Customers base their decision to choose a particular financial-services provider on the relationship they have with that provider. We thus need to know: Do customers find us valuable, congenial, and dependable? Do we make it easy for them to maintain multiple lines of business with us? We measure customer service in a variety of ways: surveys of customers, employees, and consumers; “mystery shopper” visits to retail banks; complaint volume and market share metrics; league table standings; and tracking of community engagement programs. Because we make decisions based on these measurements, they affect the behavior of every employee. It’s an article of faith with us that whatever one’s job is in Barclays, we must all be in touch, directly or indirectly, with customers. And that applies to a group chief executive like myself just as it does to everyone else within the organization.

The Barclays journey began with a single strategic step, but it soon came to rely on the actions of thousands of employees. We have seen firsthand that when people at all levels follow a customer-focused ethic, with the support of the corporate structure and metrics, it can raise the metabolic rate of the entire company. Only then can we accelerate the three main components of our vision: to earn, invest, and grow.

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