October 29, 2012, 3:01 PM — You're out to dinner with four friends and no one remembers to ask for separate checks. Some of you order appetizers, others have a few extra drinks. Some have cash, some have credit cards. Then the bill arrives. How are you going to split it?
Barclays bank in the U.K. pictured this scenario and realized the problem couldn't be solved with its current online banking site or mobile app.
"Wouldn't it be nice to text that person and send them the money you owed them?" asks Shaun Terry, head of mobile banking at Barclays. He and his team figured there had to be a way to make a payment to someone through a phone number in a smartphone address book.
Bank officials knew that most customers would have their phones with them at all times, with easy access to their contact phone lists. "The key thing we saw was simplicity and availability," Terry says. "If I wanted to go and make a payment through online banking, I would have to login and go through security."
Barclays conducted focus groups with a wide range of customers, working through 25 possible versions of the mobile app and relying on an external agency to help with the user experience design. Simplicity was the main feature that focus groups emphasized. "Users are not forgiving if you have a poorly designed app," Terry says.
The final result was its Pingit person-to-person mobile app, which allows customers to send and receive payments via text messages between mobile phone numbers. The app received a 2012 CIO 100 award for its innovative approach and business value.
After 90 days of development, Barclays rolled out Pingit to its U.K. customers last February. Bank officials declined to discuss the costs but said full payback on the investment took seven-12 months.
How Pingit Works and Does It Matter?
To set up the service, customers download the Pingit app from the app store on an iPhone, BlackBerry or Android device and then register their Barclays account and phone number. To send a payment, they enter the recipients' phone number and the amount of money they want to send. The recipient then gets a text message saying funds have been deposited into their account.
Barclays has had 1.2 million downloads and half a million customers who have registered to use Pingit. More than 50 million pounds have gone through the system so far, Terry says. The bank has also used Pingit as a way to entice non-Barclays customers into switching over to Barclays."Quite a lot of people said on Twitter that they joined Barclays because of Pingit," Terry notes. Of the registered customers on Pingit, 60,000 are non-Barclays customers.