The launch of First Direct was all very hush-hush. As Britain’s first ‘virtual’ bank, with no branches and no bank managers, it was an entirely new proposition, and as such very little was shared about the concept ahead of launch. Even the team hired to work on the initiative were kept in the dark, including marketing director Jan Smith who was working at TSB at the time.
“Someone told me Midland Bank was looking for a marketing director for an initiative called ‘Project Raincloud’,” she recalls, a name chosen to indicate its potential for growth. “They couldn’t tell me what it was about because I was working at a competitor, so I had to take a punt… I had no idea what I was going to until I arrived.”
The concept for First Direct came when one of the senior team at Midland went to the US and witnessed telephone banking in operation. Midland wanted to do something similar and the idea for the UK’s first remote bank, open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year was born.