Firstdirect outgrows its headquarters

FIRSTDIRECT, the novel telephone bank without branches, is moving to a massive new building to cope with the growing number of customers using its round-the-clock service, writes Lisa Vaughan.

Since its launch four years ago by Midland Bank, now owned by HSBC Holdings, Firstdirect has occupied a single sprawling, open-plan building in Leeds that has suited its customer-service oriented philosophy.

But it recently bought an old games factory and the surrounding land owned by Waddingtons, the makers of Monopoly, just off the M1 near Leeds and two miles from its current offices. The former factory has been torn down and the foundation is being laid for the new building, estimated at 130,000 square feet.

After starting from scratch in October 1989, Firstdirect now employs about 1,500 people and has 400,000 accounts. With accounts increasing by 10,000 a month and staff numbers rising to keep up, its present headquarters will be bursting at the seams within a year.

Kevin Newman, chief executive, said the new building should be ready for occupation in the second half of 1994, around the time of Firstdirect's fifth birthday, and take the company through the next four or five years.

Firstdirect's new parent, HSBC, has supported the expansion. Mr Newman said: 'The acquisition of a second site is . . . a Hongkong Bank board decision which would not have been taken unless they were reasonably comfortable with the business.'

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