The Merchant Services Division of Barclays Bank has been conducting a trial of the Bull CP8 Smart Card at the Dallington Country Club in Northampton (CI No 1,011), calling the project the Electronic Leisure Management System. Barclays involvement in Smart Cards and their potential commercial application seems to stem from a number of business considerations […]
The Merchant Services Division of Barclays Bank has been conducting a trial of the Bull CP8 Smart Card at the Dallington Country Club in Northampton (CI No 1,011), calling the project the Electronic Leisure Management System. Barclays involvement in Smart Cards and their potential commercial application seems to stem from a number of business considerations that have arisen since deregulation of the UK financial sector. The money markets have opened up and a number of new players are offering services that were once regarded as banking functions. Retail stores such as Debenhams and Marks & Spencer have their own in-house credit cards, and other financial institutions like National & Provident Building Society and Chase Manhattan Bank are cutting into Barclay’s share of the payment card market. The recent report from the Monopolies & Merger Commission on the UK brewing industry, and its strong recommendations for liberalisation has also given the banks food for thought. The same body has been preparing a report on financial institutions, due to be published at the end of May, and Barclays quite frankly admits that it will have to diversify its activities and develop its interests in technology with commercial and banking implications. Of course Barclays is also aware of the coming European Single Market and is considering mergers or acquisitions in the continental financial sector. Therefore, given the need to diversify its activities and maintain a European perspective, Barclays is very interested in the development of Smart Cards. Complex consumer needs Since 1987 it has been involved in discussions with the British Standards Institute, the International Standards Organisation, the International Association of Micro Cards and various manufacturers to standardise Smart Cards. The bank claims that it was most attracted to Bull’s CP8 card because of its multi functionality, and the Dallington Country Club project is an attempt to assess the various services it offers, and its applicability to the increasingly complex consumer needs that Barclays will be meeting in the future. The CP8 offers three main services at the club – access control, both physical and logical; data files which store cardholder information and transaction logs; and electronic payment facilities, which make purse, cheque and off-line transactions. The purse facility allows the user to make high volume low cost purchases, and Barclays foresees the purse being used for such things as car parking fees and small scale travelling expenses. The electronic cheque has a minimum limit of UKP5, and unlike the purse, must be accessed via the user’s personal identification number. Transactions are made off-line and the long-awaited experimental introduction this autumn of on-line electronic fund transfer at point of sale in the UK is almost inevitably going to be less popular with retailers than the alternative. However, Smart Cards are more secure than the conventional magnetic stripe bank card, and it could be argued that the latter requires the added security of on-line transactions, and the retailer must pay for that insurance. So, what services does Barclays intend to offer in its future diversification? It’s difficult to say really (of course). The Smart Card is user-defined and user-specific and does have the facility to carry medical and other confidential information which can be accessed only by the user and other authorised persons; it does save on paperwork, which one suspects is largely for the banks’ own benefit, and it is true that many people like the convenience of plastic money but don’t like using credit cards. It would appear that Barclays is offering effective security, off-line transactions, 64Kb memory space in which to store information that may or may not be required and the nebulous possibility of some pan-European financial services network – but is it technology providing value added services to meet growing consumer needs…?