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taking tech the extra mile

Barclays is at the forefront of the myriad of massive technological changes happening across the financial services industry. And that puts our tech people at the heart of the action, working on projects that touch millions of lives and move billions of pounds every day.

As a business, we’re big enough that our work has impact at scale, but not so big that people can’t make an individual difference. And our commitment to stewardship means that our drive for transformation is always underpinned by a commitment to leave any situation better than we found it.

Look at our Global Payments Technology. Barclays manages around 800,000 transactions worth nearly 1 trillion pounds every day across UK, EU and US geographies. The software and systems behind our global payment engines move money around the economy securely and accurately at lightning speed, all while validating the payments and meeting the regulatory and reporting requirements that go with every single transaction.

Hemant Harjai is a Director in Global Payments Technology. His team, of around 150 permanent and contract people, is tasked with making upgrades and changes to these critical payment engines.

As Hemant explains, “whether it’s a payment of £10 in a shop, the crediting of someone’s salary or the £million investments made through our Markets business, Barclays processes these payments and ensures that our systems collect and share all the data necessary to settle accounts, comply with regulations, and monitor financial sanctions.”

“So this is an area in technology where the stakes are incredibly high. The risks involved means that industry-wide changes are planned years in advance and when we upgrade or transform the tech we rely on, those changes need to work perfectly first time, all the time.”

That’s what makes the recent achievements of Hemant’s US High Value Payments Team so remarkable. They were tasked with a major regulatory project to bring our global payment engines in line with a Payments industry wide change to payment message formats. The multi-year, cross-border project comes with strict deadlines to upgrade to the new standards that will be used by all global financial firms, the SWIFT network and clearing houses.

Meanwhile, the same team were at the heart of a major growth initiative internally. The aim was to expand our services, enabling US Corporate customers to send and receive domestic, international wires and intra-account transfers using multiple corporate channels, in multiple currencies.

The SWIFT CBPR+ (Cross Border Payments & Reporting) initiative is part of a global, industry-wide transition to a new ISO 20022 standard, adopting XML messages for payments. The ISO 20022 framework creates a single common language for most payments globally, enabling richer, better structured and more granular data to be carried end-to-end in payments messages.

The US High Value Payments Team upgraded the payments engine to handle the new messaging standard while co-existing with legacy payment platforms. They integrated the engine with a new transformation application that could process ISO 20022 compliant payments, while creating an enhanced interface for the enriched XML data to create feeds for statements, sanctions, data warehousing and related reporting components.

Meanwhile, they were massively expanding our commercial offering to US Corporate clients. This enabled our New York office to support international wires in 29 currencies from clients’ USD accounts. It gave our Corporate teams the capability to initiate FX, Direct & Cover and priority payments for clients and facilitated a new customized billing and pricing model. So our tech teams had a direct impact on our ability to offer new services and drive new revenue streams for a part of the business that is targeting major growth.

Most remarkably, the team did all this, in parallel, to deliver phase 1 or minimum proposition for US Corporate clients in just 9 months. Then went on to deliver all key changes for both programs in 19 months. As Hemant says, “It was a great example of applying the right mindset from beginning to end. The team drove change, challenged the way things were done and empowered each other to make things happen. By doing so, they accelerated the different phases of the project and delivered consistently excellent outcomes.”

This approach started by bringing everyone together. With multiple partners and stakeholders to involve, it was vital to maintain momentum and reduce handoffs. This was achieved through ‘big room’ sessions where ideas were shared, and challenges overcome quickly by finding solutions together.

“This project proves the power of cognitive diversity,” says Hemant. “By bringing people from different teams, regions and skillsets together, we were able to move faster and deliver better.”

The team fast-tracked build and test executions, using in-sprint automation, to improve delivery cadence. And they took the lead to ramp up the feature teams with the appropriately skilled people we needed to deliver. “Team members reached out to their networks to find the people we needed. And they got involved in rigorous training sessions, so that new team members were brought up to speed as soon as possible.” explains Hemant.

The results speak for themselves. The team successfully met the timelines for the major US Corporate growth initiative and the ISO 20022 standards. And while all that was going on, they on-boarded two new major US corporate clients and met our annual regulatory commitments to the US Federal Reserve Bank and US Clearing Houses. “All of this was achieved with zero incidents post implementation. This team of just 20 people really went the extra mile, and they have every reason to be proud,” says Hemant.

It's little wonder then that the team was recognized in the Barclays CEO Awards 2023. As Barclays CEO, CS Venkatakrishnan, puts it, the project is “a demonstration of the commitment and passion that is helping to achieve our ambition of making Barclays a consistently excellent organization."

Technology, teamwork and impact, it’s happening here.

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