Barclays Offers Free Public Wi-Fi Across 1,500 Branches

Barclays is the first major bank in the UK to offer free Wi-Fi access in all its branches nationwide. The bank says it will help staff sell mobile banking solutions to customers.

Barclays customers will be able to use any wireless-enabled PC, tablet or smartphone to connect to the internet while in (or near) any of the bank’s 1,500 branches.

The technology will be provided and managed by BT as a white label service, meaning it will be visible to the public in branches as “BarclaysFreeWifi.” In order to connect to the service, customers only have to click to accept the terms and conditions.

Some financial institutions that have toyed with free Wi-Fi in the past have restricted access or limited use to only a handful of sites — usually the bank’s website and mobile banking portal. Not Barclays. They are going to let all users — customers or not — surf the web freely.

The project has been running for six months and included initial trials in three branches to prove the technology and customer demand for the service. Barclays is already offering free Wi-Fi is in more than half of its branches, with the remaining going live in a matter of weeks.

Barclays says the free Wi-Fi is more than just a gimmick designed to prop-up sagging traffic volumes in branches. The UK banking behemoth says there is a very practical reason: mobile banking demos with customers.

“Our front line staff say this will help them give product demos using our customers own mobiles and tablets,” explains Ashok Vaswani, CEO of Barclays Retail and Business Banking. “Customers tell us they like the idea of mobile banking but would often value being shown how it works.”

“We are always keen to show our customers how easy our mobile apps are to use,” Vaswani continues. We hope by providing this free service our customers will be able to instantly download and use all our mobile apps, and we are on hand to show them how.”

Pretty smart. If you can get new customers to download your mobile banking app before they step foot out your door, there’s a much higher likelihood that those customers will become regular mobile banking users.

It’s a tad ironic, if you think about it… adding a new service (Wi-Fi) to a channel (branches) where the intention is to steer consumers away from that channel.

One interesting consequence of Barclays decision is that all their employees will have access to free Wi-Fi while at work. If the bank was previously trying to keep staffers off Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, they can forget about that now.

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