Barclays | History and definition of Barclays | The logo of Barclays

Barclays PLC is a global financial services company headquartered in London, United Kingdom. As of 2010 it was the world's 10th-largest banking and financial services group and 21st-largest company according to a composite measure by Forbes magazine. It has operations in over 50 countries and territories across Africa, Asia, Europe, North America and South America and around 48 million customers. As of 30 June 2010 it had total assets of €1.94 trillion, the third-largest of any bank worldwide (after BNP Paribas and HSBC).

Barclays is a universal bank and is organised within two business 'clusters': Corporate & Investment Banking and Wealth Management, and Global Retail Banking. The Corporate & Investment Banking and Wealth Management cluster comprises three business units: Barclays Capital (investment banking), Barclays Corporate (commercial banking) and Barclays Wealth (wealth management). The Global Retail Banking cluster comprises four business units: Barclaycard (credit card and loan provision), Barclays Africa, UK Retail Banking and Western Europe Retail Banking.

Its primary listing is on the London Stock Exchange and it is a constituent of the FTSE 100 Index. It has a secondary listing on the New York Stock Exchange.

This bank traces its origins back to 1690 when John Freame and Thomas Gould started trading as goldsmith bankers in Lombard Street, London. The name "Barclays" became associated with the business in 1736, when James Barclay, son-in-law of John Freame, one of the founders, became a partner in the business. In 1728, the bank moved to 54 Lombard Street, which was identified by the 'Sign of the Black Spread Eagle', over the years becoming a core part of the bank's identity.

In 1776 the firm was styled "Barclay, Bevan and Bening" and so remained until 1785, when another partner, John Tritton, who had married a Barclay, was admitted, and the business then became "Barclay, Bevan, Barclay and Tritton".

In 1896 several banks in London and the English provinces, notably Backhouse's Bank of Darlington and Gurney's Bank of Norwich, united under the banner of Barclays and Co., a joint-stock bank. Between 1905 and 1916 Barclays extended its branch network by making acquisitions of small English banks.

Further expansion followed in 1918 when Barclays amalgamated with the London, Provincial and South Western Bank and in 1919 when the British Linen Bank was acquired by Barclays Bank, although the British Linen Bank retained a separate board of directors and continued to issue its own bank notes (see Banknotes of the pound sterling). Then in 1924 the planned takeover of National Bank of Kingston reached near-completion but was halted three days before finalisation.

In 1965, Barclays established a US affiliate, Barclays Bank of California in San Francisco.

Barclaycard, the first credit card in the UK, was launched in 1966 and in 1967, Barclays unveiled the world's first ATM cash machine at Enfield, north London. British actor Reg Varney was the first one to use the ATM.

In 1969, the planned merger with Martins Bank and Lloyds Bank was blocked by the Mergers and Monopolies Commission but the acquisition of Martins Bank on its own was allowed. Also that year the British Linen Bank subsidiary was sold to the Bank of Scotland in exchange for a 25% stake, a transaction that became effective from March 1971.

In 1974, following the secondary banking crash, Barclays purchased Mercantile Credit Company.

In 1980, Barclays Bank International expanded its business to include commercial credit and took over American Credit Corporation, renaming it BarclaysAmerican.

Barclays became the first bank to re-open branches on Saturday mornings in 1982, twenty years after the practice ended. Two years later, in 1984, Barclays posted record profits.

The following year Barclays Bank and Barclays Bank International merged: as part of the corporate reorganisation, the former Barclays Bank PLC became a group holding company, renamed as Barclays PLC and UK retail banking was integrated under the former BBI, and renamed Barclays Bank PLC.

In 1985, Barclays introduced Connect, the first debit card in the United Kingdom. The Connect brand was used on all Barclays debit cards until July 2010.

The year 2000 saw the acquisition of Woolwich plc (formerly the Woolwich Building Society). Then in 2001 Barclays closed 171 branches in the UK, many of them in rural communities: Barclays called itself "THE BIG BANK" but this name was quickly given a low profile after a series of embarrassing PR stunts.

In 2003, Barclays bought the American credit card company Juniper Bank from CIBC, re-branding it as "Barclays Bank Delaware". The same year saw the acquisition of Banco Zaragozano, the 11th Spanish bank.

Barclays took over sponsorship of the Premier League from Barclaycard in 2004. In May 2005 Barclays moved its group headquarters from Lombard Street in the City of London to One Churchill Place in Canary Wharf. Also in 2005 Barclays sealed a £2.6bn takeover of Absa Group Limited, South Africa's largest retail bank, acquiring a 54% stake on 27 July 2005.

Then in 2006, Barclays purchased the HomEq Servicing Corporation for $469 million in cash from Wachovia Corp. That year also saw the acquisition of the financial website Comparetheloan and Barclays announcing plans to rebrand Woolwich branches as Barclays, migrating Woolwich customers onto Barclays accounts and migrating back-office processes onto Barclays systems – the Woolwich brand was to be used for Barclays mortgages.

In January 2007, Barclays announced that it has purchased the naming rights to the Barclays Center, a proposed 18,000-seat arena in Brooklyn, New York, where the New Jersey Nets planned to relocate. Barclays cancelled its secondary listing on the Tokyo Stock Exchange in 2008.

On 30 August 2007, Barclays was forced to borrow £1.6bn ($3.2bn) from the Bank of England sterling standby facility. This is made available as a last-resort when banks are unable to settle their debts to other banks at the end of daily trading. Despite rumours about liquidity at Barclays, the loan was necessary due to a technical problem with their computerised settlement network. A Barclays spokesman was quoted as saying "There are no liquidity issues in the U.K markets. Barclays itself is flush with liquidity."

On 9 November 2007, Barclays shares dropped 9% and were even temporarily suspended for a short period of time, due to rumours of a £4.8bn ($10bn) exposure to bad debts in the US. However, a Barclays spokesman denied the rumours. Subsequent write-downs at the bank were announced to be £1 billion ($1.9 billion), much less than feared.

In July 2008, Barclays attempted to raise £4.5bn through a non-traditional rights issue to shore up its weakened Tier 1 capital ratio, which involved a rights offer to existing shareholders and the sale of a stake to Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation. Only 19% of shareholders took up their rights leaving investors China Development Bank and Qatar Investment Authority with increased holdings in the bank.

In 2008, Barclays bought the credit card brand Goldfish for $70 million gaining 1.7 million customers, and $3.9 billion in receivables. Barclays also bought a controlling stake in the Russian retail bank Expobank for $745 million. Later in the year Barclays commenced its Pakistan operations with initial funding of $100 million.

Reuters later reported that the British government would inject £40 billion ($69 billion) into three banks including Barclays, which might seek over £7 billion. Barclays later confirmed that it rejected the Government’s offer and would instead raise £6.5 billion of new capital (£2 billion by cancellation of dividend and £4.5 billion from private investors).

In January 2009, the press reported that further capital may be required and that while the government might be willing to fund this, it may be unable to do so because the previous capital investment from the Qatari state was subject to a proviso that no third party might put in further money without the Qataris receiving compensation at the value the shares had commanded in October 2008.

In March 2009, it was reported that in 2008, Barclays received billions of dollars from its insurance arrangements with AIG, including $8.5bn from funds provided by the United States to bail out AIG.

On 12 June 2009, Barclays sold its Global Investors unit, which includes its exchange traded fund business, iShares, to BlackRock for $13.5bn.

Standard Life sold Standard Life Bank plc to Barclays plc in October 2009. The sale completed on 1 January 2010.

On 11 November 2009, Barclays and First Data, a global technology provider of information commerce, have entered into a agreement according to which Barclays will migrate a range of card portfolios to First Data's issuing and consumer finance platform.

Barclays is a member of the Global ATM Alliance, a joint venture of several major international banks that allows customers of the banks to use their ATM card or check card at another bank within the Global ATM Alliance with no ATM access fees when traveling internationally. Other participating banks are Bank of America (United States), BNP Paribas (France), UkrSibbank (Ukraine), China Construction Bank (China), Deutsche Bank (Germany), Santander Serfin (Mexico), Scotiabank (Canada) and Westpac (Australia and New Zealand).

Barclays is headed by Marcus Agius, the Group Chairman, who joined the Board on 1 September 2006 and succeeded Matthew Barrett as Chairman from 1 January 2007. Agius is also the senior executive Director of the BBC and was formerly Chairman of BAA PLC, Chairman of Lazard in London and a Deputy Chairman of Lazard LLC until 31 December 2006.

Reporting directly to the Group Chairman is Robert Diamond, the Group Chief Executive, who is responsible for the strategic direction and planning of all Barclays operations. Varley was appointed to the role in September 2004 prior to which he served as Deputy Chief Executive (January–September 2004) and Group Finance Director (2000–2003).

In November 2009, John Varley realigned Barclays' businesses into Global Retail Banking and Corporate and Investment Banking and Wealth Management. Global Retail Banking comprises UK Retail Banking, Barclaycard, the retail operations in Western Europe and Emerging Markets businesses, and retail operations and technology. Corporate and Investment Banking and Wealth Management comprises Barclays Capital, Barclays Commercial Bank and Barclays Wealth. This resulted in certain changes to the leadership team and an expansion of the Group Executive Committee (ExCo).

Since 2004, Barclays has sponsored the Premier League and, from 2006, the Churchill Cup. Barclays also sponsored The Football League from 1987 until 1993, succeeding Today newspaper and being replaced by Endsleigh Insurance. It also sponsored the 2008 Dubai Tennis Championships. In 2009 it became the official sponsor of the ATP World Tour Finals.

Barclays is a major sponsor of professional golf tournaments worldwide, the Barclays Scottish Open on the PGA European Tour at Loch Lomond since 2002, the Barclays Classic on the PGA Tour from 2005–2006, which became The Barclays in 2007, the first of four playoff tournaments for the FedEx Cup, and since 2006 Barclays has been title sponsor to the Singapore Open, the richest national open in Asia, and since 2009 has been co-sanctioned with the European Tour. Barclays also sponsors PGA Tour star Phil Mickelson and European Tour player Darren Clarke.