Accelerating digital, connecting virtually and photo-bombing dogs on video calls
It’s not every day you start a new job during a pandemic. And it was shortly after lockdown that Phil Stunt started his new role as Chief Operating Officer (COO) for Barclaycard Payments. We caught up with Phil on his views on the industry, meeting colleagues virtually and his lessons learnt along the way.
What impact has the pandemic had on payments?
From my perspective, what the pandemic has done is accelerate trends that were already there. We were already shifting towards an e-commerce world and seeing a gradual decline of cash. Both of these have accelerated during recent months as everyone adapts to the changing environment. This is playing out not only in the UK but also in other countries like Germany and the US.
With the increased limit on transactions, we’ve seen a rise in contactless payments during the past few months. However, that’s not to say I think we can just dive straight to being totally cashless. If I use my mother and my children as one example, my mum has said she’s fine with the contactless, but she also still likes to give the grandchildren a cheque for their birthdays.
When it comes to the retail environment, we've talked in the industry for a while about “omni-channel” without really knowing what that means. To me, it’s all about a single, frictionless journey that allows consumers to buy what they want, where they want, when they want. It’s also impacts how we pay; everyone wants to pay in the way that suits them best and it’s about giving consumers that choice, particularly in this current situation.
The COVID-19 pandemic has given us the opportunity to define what the new working model for payments is. We know consumer behaviours are changing and businesses are having to adapt but we are in good position to meet those demands, ensuring we do right for our business customers and consumers.
How is technology changing the digital customer journey?
We’ve all done it… we’re online looking to buy a book and then, before you know it, you're browsing elsewhere because something interesting has caught your eye. This is a curious phenomenon, but that's what makes the digital experience really powerful. We need to make sure the digital journey we offer to consumers is content rich and relevant, and that we’re giving them what they need.
The consumer digital experience has to be easy - and always work. Reliability is key. There are many reasons why a digital transaction, whatever it is, can fail, but that's hugely frustrating and impacts people’s tolerances, regardless of the demographic. So it's got to be super slick, easy, and always work, 100% of the time.
This is particularly relevant at the moment. During the pandemic, many organisations are using technology in creative ways and pivoting their business models to reach their customers in a virtual way. There’s a need for a sleeker operation and mobile functionality to deal with increased traffic and orders online.
In the high street, we are seeing technology evolve too. The days of the desktop point of sale (POS) terminal are changing and things are shifting towards use of “smart” terminals, which provide more data and more capabilities that will help the retailer run and grow their business. My sense is, this will quickly become the norm.
What role does data play in helping businesses succeed?
Data is becoming increasingly important; it enables us to understand what's happening, the trends we need to respond to, and makes sure we are delivering what our customers need to grow their businesses. It’s a big opportunity and whether it’s geo-location data, diagnostics on the effectiveness of a sales promotion or footfall data there are so many ways businesses are looking to use smart analytics to help.
One example is looking at how we can use data to help combat fraud. We recently announced our new partnership with Kount, which uses data through adaptive artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to protect businesses from e-commerce fraud, maximise sales and improve the customer experience.
More broadly, the connectivity of all elements of our customers' financial life and our ability to serve them based on our great understanding of data is a really important part of the jigsaw. Barclays provides customers with current accounts, mortgages, credit cards, merchant transactions, online shopping, you name it. It’s about connecting the dots and adding value in a truly holistic way.
What was it like to join Barclays during a global pandemic?
Extraordinary, actually. The on-boarding process was remarkably quick and as comprehensive as you’d expect at any other time. But, I have to say, it was also slightly strange, when you've not physically met any of the people who have interviewed you.
I'm very proud to be part of Barclays. We have given our colleagues flexibility to work in a way that works for them during the pandemic and the commitment to the wellbeing of our people has been outstanding. I do believe you need a spiritual home for where you work, a community, a hub so you have a sense of belonging to a place – but we’re responding to that and finding new innovative means to connect with each other. I think this will define the new ways of working as we go forward.
The way the business operates, how the teams operate, the collaboration, has been excellent. I am also getting used to the video calls treadmill, and I have to say it kind of works, which I didn’t think any of us would have thought a while back. I’ve even adapted to my dog photo-bombing many a call. She's quite a cute cockapoo, so immediately everybody's going "aw" and you completely lose your train of thought.
And strangely, I haven't missed printing out as much stuff as I thought I might, which is a bonus for the environment.