Barclaycard CIO creates startup environment for fast change

To make a large business think like a startup, creating the same environment as found in challenger businesses will foster that change in atmosphere. Northampton may not be attracting the same startup buzz as Manchester, Silicon Valley or the hype, beards, coffee and bicycle culture of Shoreditch in London, but to Barclaycard it is a critical operating hub and the credit card arm of the banking giant Barclays decided to bring a bit of the Valley to town once famous for its shoe making.

Roy Aston has been CIO of Barclaycard Europe since 2013 and late last year created an entirely new floor at the organisation's headquarters that is a direct juxtaposition from the traditional corporate environment across the lobby. Aston's pine wood, bright colours, giant white boards and rainbow of post-it notes is a loft style office.

"People have learnt ways of delivering over many years. So we are spending a lot of time with coaching and bringing in network groups," Aston says at one of the stand up tables of the culture change that the startup office environment is just part of.

Aston explains that having joined Barclaycard in April 2013 he saw a wide range of transformations taking place across the organisation but what the bank hadn’t succeeded in scaling these transformations across the entire business. He felt that Barclaycard needed an environment to create greater collaboration and with a heritage in challenger banking, Aston knew that Barclaycard needed to increase the pace and impact of these transformations.

"I started at Internet startup banks at Egg. The learning’s from that experience was the customer focus and getting the right delivery. Also to fail fast and learn from that," Aston says. He describes the main difference at Barclaycard being the scale of the organisation.

"Our transition is how do we drive new speed and new partnerships and how do we begin to think differently about financial services."

Barclaycardis a "strategic line" of the behemoth Barclays banking group, Aston says.

Aston bases himself at Northampton too as he believes it is important that he is seen and how important the transformations are that are being developed in the new lab environment. Aston works closely with the COO of Barclaycard Ian Buchanan, himself a former CIO.

"Support for this programme from the COO was key for leader engagement across the business as you have to have complete alignment to make it successful," Aston says.

Aston has 200 people in his team supporting the technology and transformation of Barclaycard Europe. "We also hook into a bigger set of resources at Barclays and can consume up to 1000 staff," he says.

Payment is the area of financial services under going the most serious disruption, from initial challenger Paypal to the recent launches of ApplePay and Bitcoin. Businesses and consumers have a plethora of choices open to them that are not traditional banks. For organisations like Barclaycard it’s a major challenge to a once fairly secure market. Aston says the organisation is not worried and instead chooses to focus on how it can succeed in a far more diverse and competitive marketplace.

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