Barclays to be first UK bank to accept bitcoin

Barclays will become the first UK high street bank to accept bitcoin later this year, the company has announced.

It plans to allow people to make charity donations using the virtual currency by going into partnership with a 'bitcoin exchange'.

Such spending platforms are essentially a way of allowing transactions to be carried out instantaneously without a bank acting as middleman.

Not wanting to be left out, and seeing its potential to lower infrastructure costs, Barclays has been experimenting with two bitcoin 'labs' in London and collaborating with start-ups, reports say.

It has around 75 staff looking into bitcoin and block chain at offices in Notting Hill and Old Street, close to the City of London.

Block chain is the database, which records all bitcoin transactions and Barclays are not the only bank looking into its potential, with UBS also getting in on the act. 

Barclays also uses a refurbished warehouse in Whitechapel, east London, to host get-togethers between bitcoin enthusiasts.

The bank's chief design and digital officer Derek White said the aim was to 'invite start-ups, academics, the government, to work at the space to connect with others that are interested in the bitcoin and block chain community.'

The currency has friends at the top of politics too, with David Cameron taking a bitcoin provider on a British trade mission to south-east Asia this month.