Tier 1 FX giant prepares to go to battle with retail rivals

What range of assets will be available, and will Barclays be the only counterparty?

Not very long ago, Barclays, one of the world’s largest Tier 1 FX interbank dealers by market share, made a clear indication that it was concentrating on Tier 1 FX dealing, seeing retail banking as something of a noose around its metaphorical neck.

The company focused on its BARX single dealer platform, and offloaded several areas of its traditional branch banking entities globally.

Now, the company is taking a new direction in the retail electronic trading and financial services sector, as it prepares to launch an assault on some of the largest retail FX and financial services firms in the UK.

Indeed, Barclays makes absolutely no attempt to disguise its intention – that is to create a rival to Hargreaves Lansdown, Britain’s largest retail non-bank electronic financial services firm, which is worth over £6 billion and whose Vantage system allows clients to view and manage their portfolios from ISAs to pensions, and from FX and CFD trading via Hargreaves Lansdown’s HL Markets business which is a white label of IG Group, to managed funds led by a range of fund managers.

Barclays senior executive Tushar Morzaria has stated that Barclays plans to grow its self-directed investment platform Smart Investor to lure customers away from the forty year established giant built by Peter Hargreaves and Stephen Lansdown.

Smart Investor has seen 230% growth in customers this year as savings rates were cut to new lows over the summer. The service is aimed at Barclays current account customers with a minimum investment of £5,000.

Banks are extending services as turnover comes under pressure from low interest rates, and Mr Morzaria said Barclays would cut costs, expand its cards business and plough more money into mortgages, however it is very clear from this statement that the retail electronic investment market, participated in by self-directed investors, is very much on their radar.

It will be interesting to see whether Barclays allows a genuine selection of Tier 1 execution options, or whether it will act as a direct counterparty.

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