Barclays Connect was launched on 3 June 1987, the first debit Card in the UK. The project took less than two years from its initial conception to national launch.
The idea was initiated by C.R.S.D. (Central Retail Services Division) who were quick to spot the huge potential for Connect in the UK personal sector market. The project, code-named ‘project decimal’ involved 45 man years of work and 100 people from C.R.S.D., C.M.S.D. (Central Management Services Department) and marketing department. 40% of the development work was carried out by Mcdonnell Douglas Information Systems (MDIS), to reduce the impact on other key developments.
Connect was launched on target despite initial adverse reaction from retailers. The Retail Consortium waged a campaign on behalf of its members who objected to the pricing structure but an agreement was soon reached. Many retailers saw Barclays Connect as a dangerous precedent and a pre-cursor of a new generation of current account cards.
This caution may have been justified as the one millionth card was issued just nine months after its initial launch and by May 1996, five million cards had been issued.
The original advertising campaign for Connect had to be abandoned due to the initial controversy, despite months of planning. The TV commercial eventually adopted was based on a ‘Pathe News’ item and was put together in just one week. Pre-launch advertising concentrated on the ‘cat out of the bag’ theme which was ironic as a leak to the press in October 1986 had forewarned the public of the launch of the UK’s first Debit Ccard.
At the original press launch Owen Rout, UK Executive Director, commented: “We have prided ourselves on being always at the forefront on banking service and our latest innovation will take Barclays into the 21st century".
On 3 June 1996 a redesigned Barclays Connect Card was launched to improve legibility of the card number whilst retaining the well-established colour and eagle logo. Barclays Connect is just one of many debit cards available in the banking sector today but will forever hold the distinction of being the first debit card in the UK.