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Barclays shifts call centre operations to UK from India due to Covid crisis

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Simon Neville, PA City Editor
·4-min read
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Barclays has shifted some call centre operations to the UK from India as staff there struggle to cope with the ongoing Covid-19 crisis.

Chief executive Jes Staley said the bank employs 20,000 people in India but many have been forced to stay at home to look after family members as the country’s death toll soars.

He added that the flexibility shown by employees throughout the pandemic also means the company is unlikely to need so much office space – following in the footsteps of rival banks which have implemented hybrid working.

A review of its offices is under way, and Mr Staley said he expects to see a hybrid working model in the future.

High street branches will remain, but they too will continue to come under pressure as more customers continue to shift to online banking.

Virus Outbreak India
India, where Barclays employs 20,000 people, is experiencing a huge surge in Covid-19 cases (Anupam Nath/AP)

On the ongoing crisis in India, Mr Staley said: “India is very important to the bank and there is extraordinary hardship going on there right now.

“We were very mindful that a number of employees need to stay home now, they’ve got family that are sick that they need to take care of.

“We are making payments, but allowing them to help their families manage through this pandemic. It’s a very tough place right now.”

He added that Barclays has sent money via its charitable foundation to support the efforts in the country, and moved some work back to the UK.

He said: “One of the shifts was on our call centre people in the UK, to help us with the burden that was experienced in India.

“They were taking more calls and working longer hours in trying to make sure that we were servicing our customers during the course of Covid-19.

“Our people in our branches really stepped up. Historically we have not used branch personnel to take incoming call centre calls.

“We went to all of our branch personnel said ‘Would you mind, if you’re not busy, letting us direct a call to a call centre to you in the branch to help a consumer?’ and people stepped up right away, and that’s an exercise we will continue, even past the pandemic.”

The quietness of branches has reduced in recent weeks, as the UK’s Covid restrictions ease, with Mr Staley reporting an increase in footfall.

But he added: “We have 11 million customers that bank almost exclusively online with Barclays and nine million bank through their mobile telephone.

“So, that means that the use of branches is slowing down.

“We’ve been slowly reducing our brand size, being very mindful of where we’re the last branch in town or whether there’s an alternative nearby, working with the communities that we’re in.

“But I think there is still this move that you’ll see where people are engaging with us digitally and online, therefore, the need for branches will go down and we need to reflect that in our cost structure.”

On office space, finance chief Tushar Morzaria said: “We have a lot of general office space, and we’re reviewing whether we still need all of that office space, but if we do, how would we best utilise it. We definitely don’t need all that office space.”

Mr Staley is keen to get employees back to the office, saying 20,000 had gone in to work during the pandemic – including call centres, trading desks and branches – and that staff surveys show workers want to return.

But he said he recognises that flexibility is the way forward.

“As we looked at the pandemic, everybody was surprised that we could run a bank of this complexity with some 50,000 people working from their kitchen tables,” he said.

“I think flexible working is here to stay. I think that helps around diversity issues, but the bank’s main office in Canary Wharf is not going away, nor is our main office in New York, and I think we’ll continue to have an increased level of staffing (in offices) as we go through June and July.”