Magazine article Marketing

Reay-Smith Takes Credit for Barclaycard Success

Magazine article Marketing

Reay-Smith Takes Credit for Barclaycard Success

Article excerpt

As Richard Reay-Smith takes over as chief executive of Barclays Central Retail Services, he inherits a credit card legacy unrivalled in the UK market. Naturally he sounds confident. But an air of caution qualifies his good humour.

The Barclaycard brand - ReaySmith's home territory before his promotion from managing director of Barclays Card Services last week - will remain at the top of his agenda, he says.

It is the area he feels most confident talking about. "We have got over last year's losses and Barclaycard is returning to a profit and is now gaining market share."

More than one million cards were issued in 1990 - the highest figure since the card was introduced in 1966. An impressive feat, considering Barclays intoduced a charge to cardholders last May.

Reay-Smith's confidence smacks of arrogance when talking about the current competition. "I think Barclaycard will, before long, become the only sizeable credit card in the UK," he says.

"I find it difficult to see how the main bank rivals can continue to invest in the Access brand. We are going to see the individual banks' names gradually replace the Access name - Access is a dying brand."

If those banks that initially linked up with Access - NatWest, Midland, Lloyds and Royal Bank of Scotland - do experience such a branding setback, Reay-Smith and his team of marketers can justifiably be rubbing their hands.

Because as he points out, the credit card market is no place for insecure players. Since "duality" was introduced in 1989, when the banks started issuing both Visa and Access cards, competition to offer the best complete credit card service has been intense, and profit scarce.

Some are already starting to pull out. Midland closed its branded Indigo Visa card in January. Last month, Chase Manhattan ducked out of the UK scene, selling its credit card interests to Girobank.

"This is just the start," says Reay-Smith. "I see the market of the future consisting of very large players and niche issuers, like Save & Prosper. There will be no room for anyone in between."

He seems more concerned about foreign competition than his age-old Access adversaries and speaks with modest reverence about the "extemely well managed" American Express outfit. …

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