First Direct

HSBC Bank plc trading as
First Direct
Division of HSBC Bank plc
Founded 1989
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 1.25 million customers.[1] It maintains a reputation for superior customer service, awarded Most Trusted Financial Provider by Moneywise, first place in the 2015 Which? customer service survey, and winning five awards in the British Bank Awards 2016.[2][3][4]

First Direct is based at two call centres in Stourton (Leeds) and Hamilton, South Lanarkshire, Scotland. Hamilton is the larger of the two call centres. The Leeds call centre handles risk assessment and some processing activities, and the Hamilton call centre shares space with HSBC Direct banking.


First Direct was formed on 1 October 1989 by Midland Bank, one of the "Big 4" banks in the UK. In 1992, it became a part of HSBC following that business's acquisition of Midland Bank.

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 with different adverts run 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.[5][6]

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.[7] 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.[8][9]

In 2013 First Direct secured naming rights until 2018 for the new Leeds Arena, to be known as the First Direct Arena.

In 2014 First Direct brought about considerable adverse publicity when it decided to oblige existing customers of many years' standing to re-establish their identities at the cost of those customers and in 2015 this was taken one stage further, with more bad publicity, when it decided to introduce an obligatory 20-30 minute fact find phone call for existing customers wishing to open an additional account of any kind, including savings accounts. [10] [11]


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