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April 18, 2016updated 05 Sep 2016 11:25am

UK SMEs get access to big data insights as Barclays works to help them grow

News: Businesses will be able to compare themselves with others in their region.

By James Nunns

Barclays is targeting UK small and medium business customers with a service that will analyse transaction data.

The online data insights service called SmartBusiness will allow businesses to compare themselves against other similar businesses in their region.

The service, which will be available from May to over 500,000 business customers through Barclays online banking, will show key trends around business inflows and outflows and show how money is paid in from cash, debit card and cheques, in addition to an average spend by customer.

Barclays is hoping to take the pain out of analysing transaction data and to make it more of a common undertaking.

Peter Simon, Head of Information at Barclays, said: "The time within which we can crunch billions of lines of transaction data is reducing rapidly, making new services possible for the first time ever. We want small businesses to have this data at their finger-tips as we believe this SmartBusiness insight can really help them grow their bottom line, make informed choices, and tailor services for their customers."

"We believe that providing personalised, timely and relevant information to customers alongside banking will offer them even more choice, and this is a major focus for Barclays as we develop new digital services."

Barclays cites research from One Poll to justify the need for the service. The research says that 56% of SMEs rarely or infrequently check their business with and that 3% have never looked at it at all. While 44% of UK businesses say that they do already check their data daily or weekly, there are common frustrations such as being occupied by other tasks (33%), not having enough time (22%), and 15% have never thought to analyse their own data on transactions and customers.

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Unlike large organisations which are likely to have teams dedicated to analysing data, the average small and medium business owner does not. SmartBusiness is designed to remove this barrier and help them to run their businesses in a more data-driven way.

The tool will use anonymised sector data so that businesses can compare themselves against others in their area and track how they perform over time. Those with access to a Barclaycard terminal will also be able to view customer insights such as behaviours, audiences, and spending patterns.

Banks are widely considered to have a gold mine of data available to them, however, like SMBs, they have struggled to make the most of it internally, although there are efforts underway to improve this.

RBS for example is working with SAS to help improve its use of data as it looks to transform operational processes in addition to improving customer engagements.

Peter Simon, who is quoted above, recently spoke to CBR about how Barclays is putting data at the heart of its strategy to engage, help and build trust with customers.

Simon said: "What we started just over a year ago is to start to think about data less as something what happens in the IT department, and something that underpins, to something that is a customer asset that we need to treat effectively as a business and a thing."

The service from Barclays will cost £4.95 a month plus VAT.

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