Barclays Bank is the flagship subsidiary of global financial group Barclays PLC. The bank is primarily active in the UK, where it has some 1,700 branches, but also has significant retail and commercial operations in Europe, Africa (it owns more than half of South African bank Absa Group), the Middle East, and the US. Barclays Bank offers standard retail services such as deposit accounts and lending, including Woolwich-brand mortgages. The bank also provides commercial money transfer services, insurance products, the Barclaycard line of credit cards, and financial advisory services. Barclays Bank traces its roots to the late 17th century.
Barclays Bank has been building up its portfolio of global credit card accounts, especially as other financial groups sell off noncore units during the economic recovery. In 2010 the company acquired the Italian credit card accounts of Citigroup in a deal that included some 197,000 card accounts and approximately €234 million ($320 million) worth of assets. It previously bought Goldfish, the struggling UK credit card unit of Discover Financial Services, for some £46 million ($70 million). In 2011 Barclays acquired Egg UK's credit card portfolio, which added more than 1 million accounts; it has agreed to buy more Citibank card accounts.
The bank has also been offloading some of its own holdings as part of an overall corporate restructuring. In 2010 Barclays sold its US subprime loan servicing business, HomEq Servicing, to Ocwen Financial. It also announced plans to abandon retail banking in certain international markets and instead focus on wholesale and commercial banking. In 2011 it shuttered its Indonesian retail unit Bank Akita, which it had acquired only two years before. The company also sold its Russian retail and commercial operations to a group of investors, citing difficulties competing in the market. Barclays will instead focus on its investment banking activities in the region.
In 2010 Barclays acquired Standard Life Bank from Standard Life for £226 million ($369 million). The deal added Standard Life's savings and mortgage books to the Barclays fold. Also as part of the deal, Barclays and Standard Life entered into a partnership whereby Barclays markets pension products to its clients.
Despite challenges in the economy, especially in regards to Europe's debt problems, Barclays Bank's revenues grew 8% in 2011. Its Africa business performed relatively strongly, with credit impairments improving, as did Barclaycard, thanks to the portfolio acquisitions which delivered profits. That year the bank closed nearly 150 European branches (largely located in Spain), the costs of which contributed to a 5% decline in net income. – less