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first direct turns 21 - 21 facts about the UK's most customer friendly bank

30 Sep 2010

At midnight on 1st October 21 years ago, first direct took its first call and sparked a banking revolution by offering customers a 24/7/365 service. As first direct celebrates 21 years of customer-focused, award- winning banking and innovation, below are 21 facts that you may or may not know.


1. first direct has 1.2 million customers - all of whom have current accounts 

2. first direct has been in profit every year since 1995 

3. first direct employs 3,200 people at two sites, in Leeds and Hamilton (near Glasgow) 

4. More than 1 in 3 of first direct 's customers join because of personal recommendation 

5. first direct was the first bank to achieve the Carbon Trust Standard

6. first direct is currently training 21 counsellors for their partner charity NSPCC and is well on track to reach its 2010 fundraising target for them of £2.1m 

7. So far in 2010 first direct has won nearly 30 awards for its products and customer service including the coveted Which? award for Best Financial Services Provider 




8. first direct was originally owned by Midland Bank, who first came up with the potential concept of a 'windowless branch' in the summer of 1987. first direct then started life as a blank sheet of paper with the word customer in the middle. 

9. first direct 's pre-launch planning budget was fixed at £427,000, with £15k ear-marked for two IBM AT computers and an unspecified 'portable computer. A further £2k was budgeted solely for 'computer ribbons and floppy disks'. 

10. The original marketing slogans included "first direct - the first name in direct banking" and "It's time for something better. It's time for first direct

11. HSBC took over Midland Bank in 1992, securing first direct 's future 


Technology and innovation


12. In 1989 first direct planned that future services could include "a link with Home Banking using a PC in the customer's home office". This was a timely observation given that the World Wide Web was unveiled the very next year. 

13. 950,000 of first direct 's customers now use Internet Banking 

14. 45% of first direct 's sales are via e-channels 

15. Over 89% of customer contact with first direct is electronic 

16. Two first direct customers log on to Internet Banking every second 

17. SMS message banking was launched in 1999, and is now used by 420,000 customers. first direct sends around 3.5 million text messages to customers every month 


Telephone banking 


19. first direct handles 158,000 telephone calls every week

18. The first direct telephone number has been pretty much unchanged in 21 years - 08456 100 100 the only necessary change was when 0345 style numbers were scrapped by Oftel and replaced by 0845 numbers 

20. first direct takes over 29,000 calls a day outside traditional high street bank working hours, and over 1,700 calls a day from abroad 

21. As of 1st October 2010, the first direct call centre will have been open non-stop for 184,056 hours




For further information on first direct please contact:

first direct press office:


Amanda Brown on 01132 766700 or

Rebecca Hirst on 01132 766899 or


Notes to editors 

About first direct


first direct is a division of HSBC Holdings plc. HSBC Holdings plc, the parent company of the HSBC Group, is headquartered in London. The Group serves customers worldwide from around 9,500 offices in 86 countries and territories in Europe, the Asia-Pacific region, the Americas, the Middle East and Africa. With assets of US$2,527 billion at 31 December 2008, HSBC is one of the world's largest banking and financial services organisations.

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