Barclays mobile app gives voice to branch staff


Dave Shepherd has been working for Barclays for 25 years and has never seen anything like it. The Head of Frontline Help at the third largest UK bank is talking about the change that followed the introduction of their intranet mobile app 18 months ago. The Barclays mobile app, MyZone, was born out of a Future Leaders development day. “We built it fundamentally to push information to colleagues,” remembers Shepherd. “But it has turned into something completely different. Employees are not interested in info we push to them. They want info that they can pull from each other.”

Barclays intranet mobile appListening and experimenting

After a slow uptake initially, Shepherd and his team went around and asked colleagues how they wanted to use the app. This lead to the inclusion of MySite, a space that staff uses to express their views, post questions and answer queries. The app is developed in house by Barclays’ offshore IT team in Pune, India. “We have become so efficient now in our development of the app, we can allow ourselves to experiment with what our colleagues want. If a feature doesn’t work, it’s not the end of the world,” says Shepherd.

But MySite turned out to be the app’s biggest attraction. It is largely used among the 16,000 employees working in the bank’s branches. They do not have email and their sole comms channels used to be the intranet and line managers briefings. “It’s an urban myth that if you give cashiers an interactive comms vehicle, they will just ignore the customer,” David Hamilton, Head of Frontline Help Operations. “We have proved that it doesn’t happen”.

A different business process

Employees in branches are using the app to upload videos showing colleagues the best way to serve a customer, to ask questions about a product or to address queries to each other. For example, the team responsible for Know Your Customer or KYC, the process used by the bank to prevent money laundering and terrorist financing, had until recently been using a hot desk. In March, it switched from phones to the app and is now using MySite as its core business process.

Laptops vs mobile

MySite went live in August 2013. Adoption has reached a daily average of 2,000 to 3,000 unique users with peaks of 10,000 for particular areas. The heaviest traffic is usually between 8:00 and 9:00 in the morning when people are commuting to work, during the lunch break and in the evening. “Signing on to your laptop to access your MySite feed is a thing of the past, picking up your mobile phone to look at your news feed while watching the television at night is something quite different, “ remarks Shepherd.

While MySite is mainly used for core business activities and has communities set up mostly around work processes, employees also use it to discuss their passions. It features a photography club as well as one created by IT to discuss technology and ethical hacking.

Making it secure

Security of the app is provided by a front door five-digit pin, the same authentication process used for Barclays’ online customers. It is hardwired into the bank’s joiners and leavers process. Every time a staff member logs in, the system checks if they are still employed by the bank.

Think BYOD

The app was at first created for BYOD. “We have not pushed it, people have been downloading it out of their own volition,” says Ben Parsons, Head of Colleague Engagement. It was later made available also via the 8,000 iPADs Barclays introduced into its branches last year. These were meant to be used Apple-store-style to help customers check their account balance, book an appointment or ask a question. “The biggest challenge we had was that people did not know how to switch on an iPAD,” remembers Parsons. “Two months later they would still have it in their drawer”.

Digitally empowered

Enter Barclays’ Digital Eagles, a group of staff members who have been trained in all things digital and travel from branch to branch. “What we have done is simply giving them a badge and telling them: ‘You are empowered to talk digital to colleagues and customers’”.

The campaign is gaining momentum. The bank will go live in three weeks with a series of ads to publicise its Digital Eagles. Four million, over a third of Barclays’ customer base, are already using digital banking. The bank has also partnered with the charity Age UK to encourage senior citizens to come into the branch and learn how to use the internet. The 5,000 Digital Eagles don’t just advise on online banking, they can also help customers contact long-lost grand-nephews on Skype, as this video shows.

Getting closer to the customer

Barclays’ mobile intranet has been contributing substantially to the adoption of digital banking among customers. Use of online banking went up by 238% since the app was introduced in 2013. “Employees feel more confident to talk to customers about digital. They can use their personal phones to give them a demo of how a product works,” points out Parsons.

Mobile technology is redefining customer proximity. “Historically, there was always a desk or a computer between cashier and customer that would act as a barrier. Now, a cashier can sit next to a customer and show them the screen of their phone or iPAD. You are literally closer to the customer,” remarks Hamilton. Barclay’s current branch strategy is about having its cashiers front of the house. Mobile devices and apps lend themselves perfectly to that. “You open your body up. It’s more collaborative and demonstrative,” adds Hamilton.

Less corporate and more like YouTube

Demos play a big part in this. Barclays has been encouraging its staff to produce their own and upload them on MediaZone, a dedicated area with the MyZone app. “We want these videos to be more like YouTube rather than full-on professional,” says Parsons.

It all started when Shepherd’s team sent out a message via MySite asking users to take part in a competition and record it on a video. They were asked to find out whether checking the balance of an account and booking an appointment is faster on a PC or on an iPAD. iPADs won across the board and employees developed a taste for video. More than 800 videos have been shared on MyZone since last year. “We put out a message on MySite and tell people we need a video to show a new functionality. We get an average of 10 to 15 videos in, check them and choose the best to go live on MyZone,” explains Parsons. The ratio of corporate to employee-generated video content in the bank is now 10 to 90.

Twitter lessons

The app is also being used to educate Barclays’ staff about Twitter. “We need to know what people say about us. If we need to change something externally, we have to start internally, ” remarks Parson. The app features a read-only Twitter feed preconfigured by the bank with its feeds as well as those of competitors. This has been a first logical step to make people understand the microblogging site. Shepherd’s team is now encouraging staff to actively participate in social engagement both internally and externally.

Flattening the organization

Barclays’ mobile platform is also changing the bank’s way of looking at internal communication. “Employees now have their own vehicle. They don’t have to go through a lengthy internal comms process. They can put messages out for people to comment on and share. This is real engagement with your internal customers,” remarks Hamilton.

Barclays’ corporate intranet has seen a drop in the number of users and is increasingly turning into a bounce site staff access to go on to MySite. Mobile technology is also flattening the organization. Cashiers have been messaging Ashok Vaswani, CEO for Personal and Corporate Banking, directly with ideas for improving products. Vaswani, who is a passionate supporter of the platform and a prolific MySite blogger, answers regularly. “The app has become a by-directional and democratic tool,” adds Hamilton.

Beyond business as usual

Shepherd’s team feels that change has been exponential in the past 18 months. “There is no such thing as business as usual in the organization any more”. The change cycle promised to go on at Barclays. The bank has just announced it will cut 19,000 jobs by 2016, 9,000 of them in the UK. However, there is good news for online. Group Chief executive Antony Jenkins told BBC recently that digital advancements will be instrumental in determining the bank’s “future agenda”.