|Division of HSBC Bank plc|
|Headquarters||Leeds, West Yorkshire, England|
|Parent||HSBC Bank plc|
First Direct (styled first direct) is a telephone and internet-based retail bank in the United Kingdom, a division of HSBC Bank plc. First Direct has headquarters in Leeds, West Yorkshire, England, and has 1.35 million customers. It maintains a reputation for superior customer service, awarded Most Trusted Financial Provider by Moneywise, first place in the 2015 Which? customer service survey.
First Direct has two call centres, in Stourton (Leeds) and Hamilton, South Lanarkshire, Scotland. The Leeds call centre is the main site of the bank, housing all the major departments and being the base for First Direct's head Joe Gordon, and the Hamilton call centre shares space with HSBC Direct banking.
First Direct took its first call on 12.01am on 1 October 1989; more than 1,000 calls were taken within the first 24 hours. The launch of First Direct in 1989 was advertised twofold. Firstly, there was an Audi advert which was interrupted by a broadcast purportedly back in time from 2010, celebrating the 21st anniversary of the company (the interruption was agreed with Audi beforehand). Secondly, there were two different adverts running concurrently on ITV and Channel 4, one offering a negative view showing the aspects of normal banking and the other a positive view of First Direct, with the two crossing over at a key point.
By May 1991, the bank had 100,000 customers on its books and by March 1993 it had 250,000. It first achieved breakeven in December 1994. In April 1995 the bank gained its 500,000th customer.
In May 1999, it launched text message (SMS) banking, a service through which the bank alerts customers by SMS if the balance on their current account goes below a certain amount, and, if set, will send weekly mini-statements also by SMS. The bank began limited trials of internet banking in July 1997, launching the service fully in August 2000.
In July 2001, the bank's Offset Mortgage was launched.
In January 2004, the bank launched First Directory, a service whereby additional services were added to current accounts such as free text message banking, annual travel insurance and mobile phone insurance for a fixed monthly charge. In April 2004, the bank launched Internet Banking Plus, a service whereby account information was taken by third party internet banking from the bank's other accounts with different banks and the information was unified under First Direct's Internet Banking Plus service.
In 2006, the bank launched a first-generation mobile phone banking service in partnership with MONILINK, pre-dating mobile apps. In February 2007, First Direct became the first UK bank to introduce a fee for basic financial transactions, fuelling concern for the future of fee-free banking in the UK for personal customers.
In 2013, First Direct secured naming rights until 2018 for the new Leeds Arena, to be known as the First Direct Arena. In March 2017, it was announced that First Direct had extended its naming sponsorship of Leeds arena for a further five years.
In September 2016, First Direct introduced voice ID technology to verify customers' identities when calling into the bank, the first bank in the UK to introduce the technology on such a large scale. The following year saw the introduction of a new native mobile app for both Apple and Android platforms.
- "Press area, information for journalists". First Direct. Retrieved 21 January 2015.
- "Customer Service Awards 2015". Moneywise. Retrieved 24 August 2015.
- "Best banks for customer satisfaction". Bank accounts. Which?. Retrieved 24 August 2015.
- "A Short History of British Television Advertising" (PDF). National Media Museum. Retrieved 24 August 2015.
- "HSBC and first direct break new ground with launch of next generation mobile phone banking through MONILINK" (Press release). 4 October 2006. Retrieved 24 August 2015.
- Hutchinson, Sascha (15 November 2006). "First Direct to end free banking". This is Money. Retrieved 14 July 2013.
- "HSBC Becomes First UK Bank To End 'Free' Banking". The Money Stop. 16 November 2006. Archived from the original on 27 September 2013. Retrieved 14 July 2013.
- "Leeds arena extends naming rights deal with First Direct". Music Week. 15 March 2017. Retrieved 19 August 2017.