Colin O'Flaherty

Colin O’Flaherty’s big plans for small businesses

We hear from Colin O’Flaherty, Head of Small Business, Barclaycard Payments as he reflects on his first few weeks at Barclays, outlines his plans to support SME customers and shares where he gets his motivation from …

“I’ve worked in senior, global leadership roles for blue chip organisations for the past 20 years. Having worked across payments, card services, loyalty and business development in more than 50 countries I’ve got a good feel for the global payments landscape and it’s exciting to now think we are at a pivotal time for small businesses with the opportunity for innovation, automation and digitisation to create more simple, quick and seamless payments.

“Although I greatly value the skills I have developed in blue chip leadership roles as I consider my new role as Head of Small Business, Barclaycard Payments, I also value some of my earlier and more diverse jobs as a student where, amongst other things, I was a golf caddy, a water sports attendant in the US and held various customer-facing positions at Dublin Airport.

“Not only did these student jobs help ground me and me develop my own personal values but they were a fantastic way learn how to be a team player and deal with customers face-to-face. It’s so important to understand your customer, whoever they are, and I believe they need to be first and foremost in any business strategy. It’s certainly one of the first things I’m doing in my new role, really getting to know our small business customers to ensure we are supporting them in the most effective way. I have already met with a number of our external partners and I have been continually asking my leadership team to explain what customer need we are solving for as we talk about business priorities. In the coming weeks and months, I will accelerate that learning via skip-levels with my team as they are the ones closest to the customer, not to mention getting out and seeing customers either virtually or in person.

Digital trends and partnerships

“The drive to online started some time ago but accelerated over the past 18 months during the pandemic. We also saw creativity shine from many small businesses during this period as they pivoted or tried do things differently to survive and grow. There’s been some great lessons learnt for all about being flexible and more digital and I believe we will see these trends continue to accelerate over the coming years as well.

“Small businesses are vital to the UK economy and we know that they are looking for simplicity and faster and easier ways to make and take payments. In my new role, I’m excited to help meet all the payment needs for our small business clients. Like them, we are adapting and changing to market dynamics; so becoming more digital is also key for us and we’re introducing new flexible products and services alongside new business tools as well as seamless ways to interact with us digitally. Partnerships play an important role as well, so for example our collaboration with software vendor Big Commerce is making it easier for businesses to set up online.

“We have over 350,000 small business clients and Barclaycard is uniquely positioned to offer a unified payments experience with end-to-end payments and banking services. As I look ahead to the future, we need to continue to evolve so our customers can accept payments either in-store, online or on the go to help them achieve their ambitions. Being a partner of growth to our customers is at the heart of what we offer and the move to digital and ease of interaction is critical to the success for our customers and also for our business.

“Alongside, I always try to finish any discussion on the importance of digital by recognising that we cannot deliver without the strength of our people, something that the pandemic has also really highlighted. While digital commerce and interactions continue to scale very impressively, our customers continue to value personal interactions at key moments. Managing a relatively large team of customer-facing colleagues, I see how important it is that we continue to leverage digital capabilities in a way that also allows us to focus on the highest value interactions with customers.


“One of the best pieces of advice I’ve received from a previous manager is - to learn through observation.

“Of course, more formal learning, training and development courses are essential but I also think it’s important to look at what others around you are doing well and see what lessons you can learn from them. We have a renewed opportunity to do that now as we move back to the office environment and adopt more hybrid ways of working.

“I’ve been lucky in that I’ve worked with some amazing colleagues over the years and I’ve taken advantage that. It sounds obvious but it’s easy to overlook and I constantly look at people from all levels and backgrounds to see what it is they do so well and how they do it. It’s proved really valuable to me in my career and something that I take to heart.”