More than 1,500 branches of Barclays Bank will offer free Wi-Fi to customers, using one of BT's White Label Managed Services. It should be detected as BarclaysFreeWifi.
The service will help people who use mobile phones or tablets for banking, though they could simply use it for news or to catch up on their Twitter or Facebook feeds while waiting in a queue.
Last year, BT and Avaya commissioned some Youbiquity finance research, conducted by Davies Hickman Partners Ltd with 2,000 consumers. This showed that "free in-store Wi-Fi access was high on the most-wanted list for consumers in the UK, Germany, Spain and USA." The result: "In the branch, 41 percent want access to free Wi-Fi." The UK figure was 38 percent.
The research found that, despite the growth in online banking, 64% of customers still wanted to use bank branches. In particular, they want them to solve problems (as opposed to using call centres) and to make purchases. These visits are characterised either by their "high value" (the purchase of financial products) or "high complexity" (problem solving).
Another factor is that "people don't have a high level of trust in financial services providers, particularly in the UK (31 percent)."
The research also found that customers needed help with online banking, and would like to get it via web-based chat (28 percent), click-to-call (21 percent), co-browsing (13 percent) or video chat (12 percent). At the moment, bank branches don't help with online banking problems, but they could.
In a statement, Ashok Vaswani, CEO of Barclays Retail and Business Banking, said:
"We’ve been listening to our customers about how we can make banking easier for them, and they tell us they like the idea of mobile banking but would often value being shown how it works. We are always keen to show our customers how easy our mobile apps are to use, so we are now rolling out free Wi-Fi across our Barclays branches, and our front line staff say this will help them give product demos using our customers own mobiles and tablets. We hope by providing this free service our customers will be able to instantly download and use all our mobile apps, and we are on hand to show them how."
BT says it ran trials in three branches of Barclays, and has now rolled out the equipment to more than half of the 1,500 branches. The rest should go live later this month or by the end of March 2013.
In February 2012, Barclays launched Pingit, as "Europe’s first person-to-person service for sending and receiving money using mobile phone numbers". A free service, it works without sharing bank details. Pingit requires a UK current account and UK mobile phone number.