Barclays introduces digital experts

Going to the bank in order to get technology advice is not something you would consider doing normally, but one UK bank is introducing digital experts to its branches to answer technology queries on any subject.

Barclays Digital Eagle Joseph Cooksey (left) provides advice on technology at a Barclays branch in Holborn, London.
Barclays Digital Eagle Joseph Cooksey (left) provides advice on technology at a Barclays branch in Holborn, London.

Barclays has announced a new scheme that places 7,000 experts, known as 'Digital Eagles', in branches to take questions and offer advice to customers on any technology issue, not just those concerning Barclays products. According to the bank, there is now a Digital Eagle in every branch of Barclays in the UK, the scheme having started with 18 volunteers last year.

Technology giant Apple offers a similar service in its retail stores, with 'Apple Geniuses' on hand to help users deal with issues regarding any Apple product.

Barclays says its own initiative is more wide-ranging, and will allow customers to ask questions and receive advice on any digital issue.

"Whether it's using Skype or Facebook to stay in touch with family and friends, watching a movie on Netflix, setting up a Twitter profile or understanding how they can use the latest technology to manage their money, they (Digital Eagles) are on hand to help," it said.

Steven Roberts, strategic transformation director at Barclays, said: "We have listened to families in the UK and understand the challenges faced across the generations. There is no denying it, the world is changing and for some this can be bewildering.

"Through our 'Digital Eagles' programme, we want to take customers and non-customers on a journey to improve their technology capabilities and feel confident to embrace the new digital revolution, so they can reap the benefits of being online. Whether they're 10 or 110, we don't want to leave anyone behind."

Alongside the pilot of the scheme, Barclays carried out research on the subject of technology advice, and the bank reports that more than a third of the population regularly ask family members for tech advice. However, more than 40% said they did not feel qualified to answer the queries. This has led to arguments up and down the country, with more than 11 million Britons saying they are currently involved in a dispute over technology.

Former Gadget Show presenter and technology expert Suzi Perry believes there is a 'digital divide' in the UK, and it is all down to how different generations grew up.

"I don't think we're a nation of technophobes, I think that there is a bit of a tech divide," she said.

"There's an older generation that is perhaps a bit intimidated by technology because they didn't grow up with it. This is compared to this generation who are fascinated by it and grown up with it. To them all, this stuff is normal."

Barclays' findings support this idea, with more than 20% of those surveyed saying that they take their technology questions to their children. The percentage rose with age; with 55% of over-55s going to their children for answers to digital-related questions.

The UK is currently on a drive to become more technology-savvy, with computer coding becoming part of the school curriculum this September, and the first London Technology Week taking place in June.

Mayor of London Boris Johnson said he wanted the event to be "bigger than London Fashion Week" and deputy mayor Kit Malthouse said technology should take a more central role in political policy.

"In the future, technology should become a central part of the Government's economic policy, and it is certainly very important to London."

An area of east London, known as Tech City, has been growing since 2008, with Prime Minister David Cameron pledging further support in 2010, which has seen the number of companies with the hub more than treble.

This latest initiative from Barclays is the newest plan to improve technology understanding among UK residents, with devices such as smartphones becoming an increasingly central part of daily life. A 2013 survey commissioned by Google revealed that 68% of Britons now use a smartphone.

The Digital Eagles initiative will be open to anyone, including those who are not Barclays customers, and is free to use.