Bar­clay­card makes a come­back (again)

It’s black and blue – not plat­inum

Finweek English Edition - - Openers - BRUCE WHIT­FIELD

ABSA IS LAUNCH­ING the third in­car­na­tion of Bar­clay­card into the South African mar­ket this week, about 18 months af­ter the Stan­dard Bank-en­forced mora­to­rium saw the prod­uct dis­con­tin­ued here.

Bar­clay­card is some­thing of an in­ter­na­tional icon in credit card terms. It was the first prod­uct of its kind out­side the US in the Six­ties and was first in­tro­duced to SA in 1969. It was with­drawn when Bar­clays dis­in­vested in 1986 and rein­tro­duced in a joint ven­ture with Stan­dard Bank in 2003.

How­ever, that was short lived and the con- tract was ter­mi­nated early when Bri­tain’s Bar­clays plc bought a con­trol­ling stake in SA’s Absa in 2005.

The new Bar­clay­card of­fer­ing is very dif­fer­ent from its mass-mar­ket pre­de­ces­sor. Stan­dard Bank is­sued around 375 000 cards us­ing the brand and made loans of about R1,55bn by the time its deal was ter­mi­nated. Stan­dard Bank was then forced to reis­sue cus­tomers with cards bear­ing its own brand and barred Absa from is­su­ing the card un­til Fe­bru­ary this year.

The new Bar­clay­card is be­ing tar­geted at the up­per in­come bracket.

“It’s go­ing to be an as­pi­ra­tional prod­uct,” says Absa head of re­tail bank­ing Louis von Ze­uner. The in­tro­duc­tory card will re­quire clients to earn R10 000/month, while the higher end of­fer­ing – Bar­clay­card Prime – is aimed at those who earn R500 000/year.

The tar­gets are am­bi­tious. Absa Card head Chris Sweeney says the bank is ex­pect­ing to is­sue 100 000 Bar­clay­cards over the next 12 months, with sat­u­ra­tion ex­pected at around 500 000. The of­fer­ings aren’t cheap: R420/year for the base card and R660/year for its Prime of­fer­ing.

It pits the top-end card against the likes of In­vestec, Amer­i­can Ex­press and Din­ers Club – but un­like those cards it isn’t linked to any re­ward schemes. In­stead, it comes with an ar­ray of in­cen­tives, in­clud­ing concierge ser­vices, elab­o­rate in­sur­ance of­fer­ings and a flat fee struc­ture, cov­er­ing cash with­drawal fees (warn­ing: card providers charge in­ter­est on cash with­drawals im­me­di­ately), up to two sec­ondary cards, garage cards and third-party pro­cess­ing fees.

If your wal­let or hand­bag is stolen, and pro­vided your other bank cards and store cards are reg­is­tered with Bar­clay­card, they’ll can­cel all of those and re-or­der them on your be­half. An­other good add-on is a home key and lock re­place­ment ser­vice.

“What you see is what you get,” says Von Ze­uner. “We haven’t con­fused with adding a re­wards pro­gramme.”

Am­bi­tious tar­gets. Chris Sweeny and Louis von Ze­uner

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