Barclays customers are to be the first able to conduct face-to-face video calls with their branch’s advisers from the comfort of their own homes, in the latest consumer-orientated move made by lenders aware of the flourishing digital age the world is entering.
From 8th December, customers will be able to contact their branch’s staff via smart technology wherever they are in an undeniably revolutionary step towards greater simplification within the banking process.
Customers will welcome the greater convenience which inherently comes about from being able to choose the location from which to conduct a meeting with their bank, whilst Barclays could see this as another reason to continue their ongoing closure of branches across the UK in order to save on unnecessary expenditure.
“Alongside the availability of colleagues in branch, through mobile, telephone and social media, the service will give customers the ability to carry out a face-to-face video call with a Barclays colleague from their smartphone, tablet or computer at a time and place convenient to them,” said Barclays.
Many of the UK’s lenders, with the exception of TSB, have been shutting great numbers of their branches over the course of this year in line with the exponentially increasing uptake of online banking. RBS earlier said that 30% less customers had visited their branches over the past 4 years, and the majority of these were to discuss financial options with advisers; if video calls are initiated nation-wide, than this figure could fall very steeply.
Barclays has shut almost a quarter of its branches over the past decade, with many more expected to be added to that list in coming times, putting hundreds of jobs in jeopardy.
Barclays’ ‘Premier’ customers will be the first group to try out the technology. The average member of this group typically has over £100,000 saved or invested with Barclays and they’ll be given the chance to hold their annual account review via video call. The service is hoped to be made available by spring 2015 for the wider public.
Customers will be able to make video calls ’24.7’, enabling customers who undergo rigorous schedules to be able to conduct their financial business with Barclays at a time which suits them.
Steven Cooper, Barclays’s chief executive of personal banking, said: “While many of our customers are increasingly using digital channels to complete routine transactions, for the important moments you just can’t beat face-to-face conversations, yet traditional branch opening hours don’t always give customers that choice.”
“This is a watershed moment for the way people do their banking in the UK – where we will finally be able to interact with customers completely on their terms rather than ours:” he added.
Boosting customer’s ease of use appears to be high on lender’s agenda at present, with both voice recognition and fingerprint scanners in Barclay’s pipeline for release. This follows on from Mastercard putting the finishing touches to their pioneering biometric bank card, which works via a customer’s unique thumbprint, expected to be rolled out to lenders next year.
However, there are concerns that such new-fangled methods will not make things easier for all groups of society, with elderly folk so accustomed to traditional banking methods not being accounted for by the lending sector.
Critics have suggested that lenders ought not to abuse their position of considerable influence, to save costs and boost efficiency, without regarding their longest-serving clientele.
James Daley, founder of Fairer Finance said: ‘By getting rid of branches you begin to exclude people who are unable to bank in any other way. Many older people are just not comfortable dealing with their finances online.’
The times they are a’changin, and people will be able to access the service via an app on their smart device.