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Will Barclays ultimately regret its sub-500k decision?

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Will Barclays ultimately regret its sub-500k decision?

The monumental overhaul at Barclays means its wealth division has grown in significance.

Last week the bank revealed it would cull 7,000 investment bankers from its ranks in a huge transformation of its business profile.

Profits in the investment bank had been hit by the slowdown in debt trading, while Barclays has been under pressure to reduce its dependence on the unit, which took centre stage under the reign of former chief executive Bob Diamond.

From the ashes, Barclays' wealth unit is likely overtake its investment banking division as the biggest single profit generator in the bank.

With so much focus on the wealth arm now, one wonders whether there is some regret at Barclays decision to place UK clients with assets of below £500,000 in a new ‘lighter touch’ private client division.

The decision, made last November, resulted in a 35% reduction in its private banker head count.

While Barclays stressed at the time these lower net worth clients remained important to the bank, it highlighted they will no longer have day-to-day contact with a regulated investment manager.

'Wealth and Investment Management continues to be a key area of growth within Barclays,' the bank said in a statement at the time.

'We are making good progress in implementing a new strategy, designed to make us the "go-to" provider of wealth and investment management advice and solutions globally. It builds on our strengths, focuses on competing where we can win and simplifies how we operate.  

'We are making changes to the way we service our affluent clients in the UK, and as a consequence a number of private banking and support roles will no longer be required.'

The timing of the decision was perhaps a little unfortunate.  

In March, chancellor George Osborne stunned the pension world by saying people will no longer have to buy an annuity on retirement.

This opens up a range of opportunities for wealth managers to serve a potential flood of money coming out of this £12 billion a year market.

Last month Wealth Manager canvassed the views of seven discretionary managers to find out how much potential they saw in this opportunity.  

No doubt if there is an opportunity out there, Barclays immense distribution strength leaves it well placed to exploit it through any new service it wishes to launch.  

However, its shift in attitude to the sub-500k market may mean one or two potential clients think twice before using Barclays.  

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