The year is 1991 and Germany has just become Barclaycard’s new home away from home – ‘Barclays Card Services’ is run by a team of just 30 in a small office at 3 Albert Einstein Ring in Hamburg. Jump forward 25 years and not only has the name evolved but it now employs nearly 600 people (in a bigger office), serves 1.2 million customers, and leads the way as one of the market’s top credit card issuers.
Let’s look back at some of Barclaycard Germany’s biggest moments over the last quarter of a century.
Over the years, Barclaycard Germany has come up with countless innovations and passed some seriously impressive milestones. 1991 was the year it all began. Astrid Dibowski, Compliance and Data Protection, casts her mind back to the technology challenges of day one: “In the beginning, we had simple terminals and tube screens with a green font. We taught ourselves how to use the function keys, then learned to set our standard memos at the push of a button.”
In that same year, Parliament named Berlin as the capital of Germany and the dedicated 30-strong team launched Barclaycard Doppel – a Visa and EUROCARD rolled into one. With a long-standing fear of debt, the German market took some convincing. Once they started, however, they helped Barclaycard secure its place as Germany’s leading credit issuer.
The original 30 colleagues grew fivefold and in 1995 Barclays Card Services became Barclaycard Germany. The launch of barclaycard.de gave the business the first online presence of any credit card company in the country. Back then less than 1% of the world’s population had web access, but the business was confident the internet would take off.
The mid-nineties brought about more change. Barclaycard for Students started in 1997, opening up a whole new customer group and welcoming students into the credit family.
Germany may have finished third in the 1999 Eurovision Song Contest, but the disappointment was balanced with the introduction of Electronic Cash Cards. The GeldKarte worked as a pre-paid cash card with funds loaded via ATMs, giving customers freedom to use a cash card where credit cards weren’t accepted. Mostly used for small purchases like coffee or travel tickets, they’re still a handy and popular choice today. Unlike their Eurovision entrants.
As everyone waved auf wiedersehen to the nineties, the new century brought with it some exciting new changes. Germany had a new currency with the Euro replacing the Deutsche Mark. New loans, repayable in instalments, were launched in 2008 under the name of Barclaycard Kredit, and the 2011 collaboration with airline Germanwings gave customers an exclusive card offer, with perks including Fastlane use at five airports and free cash withdrawal fees abroad.
Since then, achievements have come thick and fast. Barclaycard created LeitzinsPlus in 2012, the first instant-access savings account in Germany and one that tracks the base rate of the European Central Bank. It allows customers to access their savings quickly and keep a close eye on the rate of interest.
2014 was the year Barclaycard Germany achieved a total lending of one billion euros – a German market, once unsure of using credit, was growing in confidence. Carsten Höltkemeyer, Barclaycard Germany’s General Manager, adds: “Over time we’ve become a business that’s really trusted.”
In the same year, as the German football team defeated Argentina and lifted their fourth world cup trophy, the business launched Smart – the mobile app. It’s an app that helps customers manage their money on the go and, as of summer 2016, it’s been downloaded over 200,000 times.
2015 was a big year for Germany. TIME magazine named Chancellor Angela Merkel person of the year, the Mindestlohngesetz (minimum wage law) came into effect, and a German holidaymaker became the millionth guest to visit the Jungfraujoch, a mountain range in Switzerland known as The Top of Europe. It was a different kind of million for Barclaycard Germany as their millionth credit card account was opened.
The business also began sponsoring the Barclaycard Arena in Hamburg, a 16,000-seater event venue and home of the Hamburg Freezers ice hockey team. The venue is fully contactless, meaning gig-goers spend less time in queues paying for t-shirts and more time singing along to their favourite bands.
2016 has seen another two huge developments for Barclaycard Germany. They introduced Express-Kredit, one of the first systems to offer customers a fully digital credit agreement. The online experience cuts down the loan application process to just 20 minutes, relieving customers from days of waiting by the letter box or phone for approval. Customers can apply online for loans between €1,000 and €35,000 and, if successful, see the money in their accounts on the same day.
Also, the Buyback Guarantee was launched, making Barclaycard the first bank in the world to offer its credit card customers a guaranteed 50% of an item’s original purchase price within two years. The guarantee covers large purchases and protects customers’ peace of mind – in case they change their mind.
What’s next for Germany? We’ll leave you with this from Barclaycard CEO Amer Sajed: “Our Germany story is one of strong growth – that continues today and into the future”.
Here’s to the next 25 years.