Banks Editor's Choice Europe

What Happened to High Street Banks in 2020? Innovation and UX

The world of Fintech often feels synonymous with start-up culture; dominated by new disruptive companies seeking to shake up the financial establishment. Sometimes it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that high street lenders are also innovating and developing technology to make banking easier for their customer bases’ – which ultimately, make up the majority of people.

With the beginning of 2021, here’s a look at what high street banks are doing to enhance their mobile and wider digital offerings going into the year.


The world’s sixth-largest bank, has committed itself to digital transformation, hiring two technology experts in December to expand its online offering.

Catherine Zhou was appointed to lead the bank’s investments and partnerships with fintech companies, having previously worked as the leader of digital and customer practice at PWC. At the same time, Kate Platonova who was already at the firm was promoted to Chief Data and Architecture Officer, a role that Altfi magazine reported, would see her improving the company’s data-driven decision making.

Contour, the digital global trade pioneer, also announced last month that HSBC would be the first production member of its network. The company is trying to digitise international trade and in a statement, Vinay Mendonca, global head of products and propositions at HSBC expressed the bank’s desire to move toward blockchain technology to simplify trade financing.


Following its unsuccessful merger discussions with Spanish lender BBVA, TSB signed onto the UK Treasury backed Fintech Pledge. The scheme which was created by the Fintech Delivery Panel aims to streamline the process for smaller technology firms to become partnered with commercial banks.

Signatories must provide guidance to tech companies on their onboarding process with a dedicated online landing page and feedback on their progress through sign up. 

TSB also launched a pilot app for bill management and utility switching earlier this year, in partnership with ApTap. It allows users to view all their bills and switch service providers in one place. With TSB’s Labs programme seeking to accelerate the development of new technology for its customers, the lender will no doubt have some new digital offerings for 2021.


In 2018 Natwest set up its fintech accelerator programme, offering funding and six-month coaching schemes to entrepreneurs with high growth businesses looking to scale up. In October 2020, one of its startups, Pynk was able to secure £1.6m in crowdfunding campaigns on Seedrs and FundrBeam.

The company has created a wealth management app which offers 0% fee, fully managed predicted portfolios. The firm is now developing support for retail investors’ access to the app and the technology may find its way into Natwest’s online banking before too long.

The lender has also been placing a premium on cybersecurity, announcing in October that customers would be able to get a free licence to install Malwarebytes Premium from their online banking portal. 


In November, Barclays announced it would be working with IT giant CGI, to implement a new finance platform for corporate clients. It will use the CGI Trade360 platform and give clients a more streamlined way to manage their trade portfolio.

James Binns, Global Head of Trade & Working Capital at Barclays, said: “The CGI Trade360 platform will mean we can continue delivering the best possible trade solutions and service to our clients for many years to come.”

Looking to the future, the firm also committed itself to promoting diversity in fintech. In 2019 it launched the Female Innovators Lab in partnership with New York-based Anthemis, to provide dedicated support and capital investment for women entrepreneurs. Barclays also started a business accelerator for Black founders in November, giving 25 business owners a 12-week programme in which they were given access to potential clients and investors, as well as access to the Eagle Labs network of co-working spaces across the UK.


At the end of November, Lloyds said it would be signing up 500 shops across the UK, to provide over the counter cashback, in areas where access to physical money is sparse. The lender said it would do this, by offering financial incentives for businesses who offer cashback in areas where there is a lack of withdrawal machines, bank branches or post offices. In doing so Lloyds hopes to help groups who have not switched to online banking.

The lender also announced in December that it would be conducting a six month trial of a digital invoicing platform from Satago, paying the company a service charge each time payments were made using the platform. The cash flow management system allows users to automate the pursuit of payments from clients and gives them real-time notifications about their customers’ risk level to protect them from bad debt.  

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