A revolution in banking
A first direct case study

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Page 3: Mission

First Direct 2 Image 3The way First Direct has filled the gap in the market is simple: Customers can call First Direct at any time of the day or night at local rates, regardless from where the call is made in the UK. Calls are answered in First Direct’s call centres by Banking Representatives. After verifying the customers identity the Banking Representative (BR) can call up all the customer's details at the push of a button, enabling them to carry out many day-to-day transactions there and then. For more detailed enquiries, such as loans, insurance or mortgages, customers are assisted by First Direct’s experts who are also able to call up all the customer details to provide the most appropriate advice or information.

Customer calls are recorded, keeping the need for written information to a minimum and ensuring that instructions are acted upon precisely as advised. Statements and other correspondence are sent by post. This brief outline of the way in which First Direct operates immediately provides a clear understanding of why the proposition is so powerful.

First Direct’s mission

First Direct’s Mission Statement is “to become the best in the world at personal banking” and therefore become so close to individual customer requirements that eventually it will be possible to understand and anticipate what customers will need next month, next year or in five years. This will be achieved by monitoring customer behaviour, consumer trends and sharing information. From its conception, First Direct broke the mould of traditional banking by setting out to provide the financial services people need, when and how they need them. Rather than producing a portfolio of products that are inflexible and complex, First Direct strives to create harmony between the services it provides and the way people live their lives.

First Direct realises visiting a bank branch can be frustrating and inconvenient. Traditional systems which dictate how and when a customer can cash a cheque, arrange a loan or organise car insurance are becoming less relevant. Instead, First Direct focuses on real customer needs, such as wanting to arrange a mortgage at 11.00 a.m. on a Sunday morning.

A new banking culture

First Direct 2 Diagram 1First Direct was established from the ground up - starting with the proposition that there had to be a viable alternative to branch banking and that the alternative should put the customer first. This would require an autonomous banking service with its own systems, culture and operating philosophy.

When such a new business opportunity arises, then so does the chance of creating a whole new culture and way of working within that business. First Direct was breaking all the moulds of the existing banking system, by conducting all its business without a single High Street branch.

First Direct has a very highly centralised culture, everyone working from one of two sites in Leeds, with no head office as such. The management structure of First Direct can be said to be hierarchical in that teams of Banking Representatives have team leaders, there are line managers, personnel managers, senior managers and directors, but they are all very approachable, with everyone working on only one floor. Even the Chief Executive’s desk is on the banking floor.

This highly communicative structure means that First Direct can react quickly to market changes and implement new ideas efficiently. In this way First Direct can be regarded as flexible and innovative. People at First Direct can improve their working conditions and so are encouraged to think for themselves and to take responsibility in making decisions. Every decision does not have to come from the top. First Direct’s culture can be defined by six values:

  • Responsive
  • Openness
  • Right first time
  • Respect
  • Contribution
  • Kaizen (continuous improvement)

Establishing this new culture has created a business that is highly geared towards fulfilling customer needs. With up to 12,000 new customers per month joining First Direct, this culture is already proving its worth.

first direct | A revolution in banking