Barclays has infrastructure to get e-banking right



John Riley

"A big world needs a big bank" is the message Barclays Bank is trying to put across in its new advertising campaign.

And it seems...



John Riley

"A big world needs a big bank" is the message Barclays Bank is trying to put across in its new advertising campaign.

And it seems deadly serious. The signal given out by Barclays this week shows that it finally has a grasp of what the Internet means for financial services.

Sure, it means that Barclays will face more competition than ever before from rivals it never thought existed. But the Internet also gives Barclays and the other established High Street banks the chance to really play on their existing advantages - brand, trust and an in-depth knowledge of their customers.

Barclays was not the first financial institution in the UK to offer Internet banking, nor has it led the field in terms of competitive rates on Internet savings accounts or credit cards. And it's Web site is certainly not the flashiest.

But neither has Barclays launched huge advertising campaigns which seduced thousands of customers onto its Web site, only to then infuriate them by collapsing under the strain.

Its thrust to join the new world of online financial services has been made largely behind the scenes, and it recently appointed its first chief information officer who will steer the company through a multi-million pound re-engineering of its business.

Behind all the hype and hysteria that enshrouds Web designers and content managers, the most important and all too often neglected part of any e-business project is the back-breaking task of integrating an organisation's entire infrastructure via the Internet.

For Barclays - which has its fair share of old legacy equipment - this will be a huge task, but the fact that it is concentrating on this rather than rushing ahead to launch new dotcom offshoots to satisfy shareholder impatience, is to be applauded.

And once it has completed the task, it will be able to roll-out innovative new services like digital TV and Wap phone banking, until the cows come home.

Hopefully, it will be confident in the knowledge that it won't disappoint customers by having an IT infrastructure that is not up to the job.

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