Barclays is making another major move into digital with the launch of a video banking service that will let customers speak face to face with advisers instead of visiting a bricks and mortar branch.
The bank will offer a round the clock service to better fit in with people’s lives in what it says is a first in the UK.
It's a watershed moment for the way people do banking, said Barclays personal banking chief executive Steven Cooper, adding “we will finally be able to interact with customers completely on their terms, rather than ours.
“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,” said Cooper.
Customers will be able to speak with advisers using the service in a similar way to FaceTime or Skype via an app on Android and Apple smartphones and tablets in addition to computers.
Video banking will be offered initially to Barclays Premier customers, then to mortgage, business and wealth customers from early next year and retail customers by the end of 2015.
While the move online will be welcomed by busy customers who find it difficult to visit branches, it could fuel worries over bank branch closures and potential job losses.
Lloyds plans to cut 9,000 jobs, the equivalent of 10 per cent of its workforce, as it turns to digital banking, according to reports.
Experts have forecast the majority of bank branches will close over the next two decades.
Deutsche Bank analysts predict high street banks could operate with just 500 branches across the country as they shift the majority of business online- a loss of nearly 5,000 branches based on the current number of major high-street bank locations in the UK.
Right now Lloyds Banking Group has more than 2,200, RBS 2,000, Barclays 1,500 and HSBC 1,150.
However, the move in to digital banking would help the bank cut costs associated with running branches. It’s estimated that transactions in person cost as much as 50-times as those made on mobile, according to estimate by the City’s watchdog.
Video banking would reduce the need for Barclays branches even further by allowing important face-to-face meetings such as annual account reviews to take place online too.
Barclays chief executive Anthony Jenkins said earlier this year it had plans to automate more of its services. “This is driven by footfall going down. It is driven by customers, not by us,” said Jenkins, adding that in some areas its branches have “more staff than customers at lunch time.”