Barclays and Coutts, the UK’s biggest private bank owned by Royal Bank of Scotland, are both working on video banking services to allow customers to speak to an adviser remotely using their mobile device.
Several other European banks are working on a similar service, the Financial Times reports, but Barclays is confident that it will be the first to launch a full mobile operation allowing its customers to see an adviser at any time, seven days a week.
Coutts is also launching a pilot “video conference” service.
Several UK banks have decided to close branches because their customers are relying on digital services rather than visiting their local bank. This move towards video banking marks another advance in the digitisation of high street banking, allowing the face to face contact many customers state as the reason they still visit physical branches.
The service, which could fuel fears of more bank branch closures, will initially be offered only to Barclays’ wealthier Premier customers from December 8. The bank plans to offer it to its mortgage, business and wealth management customers from early next year and to all its retail customers in a round-the-clock, 24/7 service by the end of 2015.
Barclays service will initially be operated by about 50 staff in a video call-centre in Sunderland, allowing customers to take out a mortgage, open a savings account or discuss an insurance policy.
Critics have noted that adoption of the service relies heavily on technical efficiency, as customers will become quickly frustrated if the video feed fails. Barclays, however, have said that they are confident the service is sufficiently robust.
Eventually Barclays plans to integrate the service with its mobile app, but will initially run it as a separate service.
Few banks other than ICICI in India have launched a 24/7 video service from a mobile device, but some do offer video service from a branch or ATM.
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