Have you ever been with a bank just because “You’ve Always Banked With Them“? I have! I was so impressed with the way First Direct handled my initial query, I have decided to move the majority of my finances to them! They really are #TheUnexpectedBank.
Why First Direct?
There are so many reasons for this move, I don’t really know where to begin. Don’t get me wrong, I had my reservations about moving to them, the very fact that they are part of the HSBC Group was enough to send a shiver down my spine, to begin with, but then, I did my homework.
There was one thing which struck me about First Direct when I started doing some research into them and that was their adverts. I mean take a look at the platypus to the left, what sort of bank does that? It struck me as odd that a bank would brand their selves this way but then, I realized that in doing things this way they were actually making the biggest statement of ‘we’re different’ that could physically be made without plastering that across the screen in front of you.
The differences of First Direct does not, however, stop there!
What I’ve learned so far and why it’s set First Direct up for success (with me at least)…
First Direct seem to pride themselves on their people & their people being different too! They come across online as having genuine pride in what they do and how it differs even from the way their parent company HSBC do it.
My first experience with them was obviously, applying for the account (a process which can either be done over the phone or if, like me, you spend your life on the internet, through their website). The account opening process is, like all banks a little laborious with page after page of seemingly never ending questions but, this isn’t their fault, it’s just how the financial sector seems to work these days. On completion of the initial part of the application, it invited me to Switch my old account in which I have opted to do & finally invited me to request an Overdraft, credit card & savings account. I was actually very impressed with this finalization stage and how it worked, being able to make the additional applications as part of your initial setup saves a lot of admin, extra forms, and phone calls! In all, their website is intuitive and well designed with very simple navigation unlike a number of banks, their aim is clarity through simplicity, not complicate beyond belief so that they take out more than they intended.
To the right is a screenshot of the crisp simplicity of their mobile banking app which, in my opinion, has the cleanest UI of any app available at the moment, it is feature rich, self-explanatory and most importantly, its accessible on Android & iPhone. I know most of us take this as being a given in the 21st century but, it’s surprising how many banks apps change completely from one device to another or only support one platform and serve a web app for the other.
Then there was that first call:
The first time I needed to call First Direct was when it came to signing all the paperwork, the only part of the whole account opening process which I didn’t like, not for any fault of First, more just because I utterly hate any form of paperwork, c’mon #LetsGetDigital already! Anyway, I was signing the papers, dotting the “i” and crossing the “t” so to speak when I got a bit confused as to what I was sending back and what I was keeping.
Then the call happened, I found their onboarding number and gave it a ring (paperwork in hand) expecting to be greeted by an awful sounding automated system with a million options and the need to enter things and pray that this one could understand my voice, the phone rang for maybe 15 seconds & then… without warning this very happy voice came on the like “Welcome to First Direct, my name is…” and I was so shocked the first thing to come out of my mouth was, “But your human?”
This call lasted for a good 40 minutes by which point I was concerned she was going to get in trouble for indulging me in my conversation about the ins and outs of things completely irrelevant to my original query which, for the record she actually resolved within about 3 minutes, the rest of the call was basically finding out how to expect things to happen going forward and a great conversation about how we both used to work for the same (different) bank and both left for (very) similar reasons.
Towards the end of our chat, the lady, who I have chosen not to publish for a number of reasons told me that there would be a different number I would need to ring once my account was open because her department only looked after onboarding of accounts, I was slightly saddened by this and remarked at how happy I’d been with my experience and how I hoped that this other number was similar, that’s when she told me that First Direct only have 2 call centres, one in Leeds (which also turns out to be their head office, mail room & a bunch of other things) and another in Hamilton in Scotland. Every number you call is the same she said, in that there are no menus, just people.
In all, I am so happy with First Direct, already I’d recommend them to anyone who is not happy with their current bank.
First Direct really is, the Unexpected Bank!
I’d like to mention that I have in no way been paid or requested to write this article, it is not financial information & I do not recommend that you take it as such, I have no formal training in finances and cannot in any way provide any form of financial advice, this article is purely my opinion and perspective, nothing more.