Q&A with Ashok Vaswani - CEO of Barclays Bank UK

Lynn Barlow
Assistant Vice-Chancellor, Creative and Cultural Industries Engagement | UWE
15th October 2018

UWE, in partnership with Business West, runs an annual lecture series that brings top business leaders to Bristol. We caught up with Ashok Vaswani, CEO of Barlcays Bank UK, before he gave his address:

Can there be any more digital transformation in banking?

The whole digital world is fascinating because it opens completely new eco-systems. So, I would submit that there’s a lot more digital transformation that can happen.

For example, why wouldn’t we be able to tell you that you’re spending this much, earning this much and this is what you should be saving and what you need for retirement? Imagine that you spent a lot of money this month on Uber for example – wouldn’t it be useful if we said shouldn’t you be a bit careful?

There are so many aspects to the digital transformation and the limits are, frankly, only set in the mind.

What’s on the agenda this year for Barclays?

How long do you have?

We’ve got lots of new services – we’re constantly looking to introduce new services that help our customers manage their money, understand their finances and build confidence in what they’re trying to get done.

Digital disruption is a highly generational thing – how do you keep your older customers happy?

Generally speaking your point is correct that there is a generational difference, but there are a whole bunch of our older customers who love digital as well. Maybe they love internet banking more than mobile, but many love that as well.

What we’ve tried to do is create an experience that is completely agnostic to channel. Whether you come into the branch, whether you are on the phone, whether you’re on digital you can have a face-to-face (if not physical) conversation.

In our branches, we’ve got about 18,000 digital eagles, which help you not only setup your banking app but they’ll help you with anything to do with digital. We had a 103-year-old gentleman walk in with an iPad that his grandson had given him and he had no clue what to do with it. A digital eagle helped him set it up and use Skype, so that he could talk to his grandson.

So, we’ve put together enough tools such as these to help all generations and all people with vulnerabilities and disabilities as well.

For example, we have a pay band where you simply wave your hand to make a payment. That’s really cool for someone who has a disability that prevents them using a credit or debit card. Our banking app has been accredited by the Royal National Institute of the Blind who say this is one of the best apps for those who are visually impaired.

So, there are many, many aspects to this that helps take care of a wide range of customers.

What do you look for in your ideal graduate?

Ideally speaking, at graduate level, it’s all about attitude.

If you have the attitude, if you’ve got curiosity, if you’ve got humility then you’re spot on for us.

What you studied, honestly, is a little less relevant because the pace of change in every subject is happening so fast.

As long as you’ve got the attitude, curiosity and humility to learn and the right attitude in terms of hard work, perseverance and commitment – that’s what we really look for.

So, is it more emotional intelligence than knowledge of processes that you’re looking for?

Definitely because we could be processing 500 mortgages a day, but for that one customer it’s a home. It’s not a mortgage; it’s a home.

When you talk to a customer about a home rather than a mortgage, your body language changes - that’s the type of empathy and emotional intelligence we’re looking for in our people.

I read a quote somewhere that said this is the best time of your career.

I can tell you I’m so excited about what I’m doing.

I’ve been in retail banking and commercial banking, worked in different parts of the world and I could never have plotted a career like this.

I can also tell you that I’ve never been so excited getting in to work because the implications and impact we can now have is enormous.

It’s a real privilege and an honour to work for a company that is 328 years old and I think about that every single day. It’s a huge responsibility to make sure that company will survive for another 328 years. 

Do you think it can survive?

I’m going to do my very best to think that is possible.

This series of free public lectures brings top level business leaders to Bristol. You can discuss these events on Twitter using the hashtag #BristolLectures and view further content from Ashok Vaswani's lecture here. For more information please contact events@uwe.ac.uk.

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