First Direct to hire 130 new members of staff in Leeds as it seeks to double its customer base

First Direct is to grow its headcount by a further 130 people by the end of the year as it targets doubling the size of the business.

The Leeds-based bank wants to double its customer base, with a particular focus on attracting young people to open accounts.

In an exclusive interview with The Yorkshire Post, its chief executive Chris Pitt, said the bank had already hired 111 people since January and that his main challenge would be swelling its volume of customers whilst maintaining its customer service.

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First Direct historically has always been well-rated by external review processes and Mr Pitt maintaining this was key.

Chris Pitt, First Direct CEO.

“The task here is to double the size of this company and increase our customer base by the scale of two,” he said.

“First Direct is a brilliant bank. For the first part of this year we were the number one brand, not bank but brand, for customer service. So it is about how we bring that to more people but do it while continuing to deliver brilliant customer service.

“I want to do this through kindness, care and consideration. I don’t want to do this by swearing assets or crashing through or cutting costs. I want to do it in a modern sort of way.”

Mr Pitt joined as CEO at First Direct in September of last year, having previously been the head of marketing for parent company HSBC.

The bank he now leads recently broke with its long-standing tradition of offering new customers an overdraft with its current account by launching one that did not, something which has led to a three quarters reduction in its decline rate.

“Part of the reason for doing that in terms of growing the business relatively rapidly in comparison to where it has been is that we want to recruit younger customers,” said Mr Pitt.

“Young people open current accounts and switch current accounts. We want to deliver digitally primarily to younger people and that is going to be front and centre of how we grow the organisation.”

Mr Pitt said he intends to base much of his tenure as the CEO at First Direct to operate a model he called “the leader is a servant”.

He said: “When I started the leader was someone who wrote down what he wanted you to do and sent it to you, and then interfered at every point.

"I am very conscious of not trying to burden my team but rather support them in making things happen.”

Like all banks, First Direct has had to deal with the disruption caused to the sector by the advent of fintech and challenger banks.

However Mr Pitt insisted the rise of these disrupters was pushing First Direct to up its game.

“You can now open a current account on your mobile phone within 10 minutes. That has been a direct provocation from fintech.

“The reason that FD is different is that we are never going to walk away from 24/7/365 telephone banking. You will always be able to ring up FD and talk to someone.”