Joe Gordon, who took on the reigns of the online and telephone banking giant in February, said that the firm’s base in Leeds was its cultural home as well as geographical one, saying that the city’s values and ideals had helped shape the company’s identity since its inception in 1989 and that he hoped under his leadership this would continue.
Aged just 33, Mr Gordon is one of the youngest banking bosses in the country and took over from previous incumbent Tracy Garrad who left to take on a senior position with parent bank HSBC.
However, despite managing a staff of nearly 3,000 across the UK and having 1.25m customers to look after, Mr Gordon pays little attention to his youth.
“My job as far as I see it, I work for the people who work for the customer.
“Right now, how do I do that better? How do I create an environment of continuous improvement?
“How do you best get people to deliver great customer services.
“If you do those things well I don’t think age matters.”
Mr Gordon hails from the city, having been born on Headingley’s Castle Grove Avenue.
And despite the bank not having a presence on the high street or a reference to Leeds in its title, Mr Gordon is adamant that First Direct is very much a Yorkshire company.
“Leeds is our cultural home. It is the people who make it what we are. It is the people from Leeds who have that attitude who that have and the value sets we have.
“Some of the statistics about job creation really speaks to the ability for Yorkshire to be that place whereby it is invested in.
“HSBC including First Direct employs more than 3,500 people in Leeds. Bar what will be the new head office in Birmingham that is the biggest headcount it has got in any city.
“So our commitment to Leeds is perennial. This is a place we want to stay invested in that works for us and this is the home and head office of First Direct.
“I am a fundamental believer that the people make this brand what it is. Go and talk to the guys here and they will tell exactly why they are proud to be from Leeds.”
First Direct effectively pioneered remote banking services on a large-scale in the UK but now faces competition from virtually all lenders in this space.
Mr Gordon says that this environment ensures the firm cannot afford to become complacent under any costs.
“Our customers want to be banking with someone they trust, They want people who are innovative, who are digitally savvy and who will push the boundaries. Their ability to trust their bank must be paramount. We were the first to launch voice ID. But we will never be complacent about our position.”
Mr Gordon was also very upbeat about the region’s economic potential and shrugged off the recent turbulence that had effected the markets.
“There has always been change it is just the pace of change that is different,” he said.
“There is an ability here in Yorkshire for the economy to go from strength-to-strength and to continually outpace the market in terms of job employment and job creation.”
He added that key to the region realising this potential was that its SME base was fostered correctly, allowed access to broadband infrastructures and with decent transport links.
Mr Gordon said that his firm would also continue to attach its name to the city it is based in. It recently agreed to continue its sponsorship agreement with the city’s First Direct Arena.
“We are making commitments to the area,” he said.
“We are signed for the FD arena.
“We support Northern Ballet and we are working to have grad mentor days for Leeds University.
“We are trying to say ‘how do we foster that view of people going to Leeds who will be residents here afterwards that business is here, and through that opportunities?’
“HSBC employ 3,500 people in Leeds. These are exciting jobs. There is a real opportunity for people to come to this area and stay here.”