first direct interactive

firstdirect interactive: video review on Visible Banking
In February/March 2007, fd launched their fd interactive platform which goal is to enhance the way they communicate with their clients; they want to create a community.

It is an excellent initiative, but even though they use some web 2.0 features such as video & audio podcasts and a RSS feed, the content of the site is still not user generated.

Please find below my video review of the platform.

Firstdirect_interactivehomepage_07jfirst direct launched in 1989. It rapidly became the most recommended bank in the uk. It is a direct bank which belongs to the HSBC Group. It was the very first bank in the uk “to open” 24/7.

first direct’s history of innovations
first direct (fd) is one of the most innovative banks in the UK. They were the first bank to launch a text banking service and they even tried a 3G/UMTS video banking service back in October 2006.

* October 1989 – launched as UK’s first telephone bank
* May 1999 – launched the UK’s first text banking service
* November 1999 – launched internet banking
* July 2001 – launched its offset mortgage
* April 2004 – launched internet banking plus, aggregation service
* August 2006 – launched webchat service
* October 2006 – tested video banking service with 3
* February 2007 – launched their fd interactive plaftorm

first direct interactive: 7 main categories
Firstdirect_interactivehomepage2_07There are 7 main sections, from fd podcasts to fd decide.
Some sections cross reference each other such as fd energy & fd virtual forest which both direct to fd podcasts.

I was surprised by how much exposure fd give to their interactive service on their homepage. Based on my experience in online sales at Lloyds TSB, product visibility is critical. Indeed, the homepage, the logon and the logoff pages are the most valuable non-restricted areas of the website to drive sales. first direct allocate up to two tiles to promote its interactive service.

fd podcasts
Firstdirectinteractivepodcasts_2To date (July 2007), they uploaded 12 podcasts between 28/08/06 and 04/06/07.

* 4 audio podcasts were produced by the Financial Times
* 2 video podcasts

* It is an average of only 1 podcast per month. Unfortunately, you can’t leave a comment nor rate the podcasts. You can’t see how many people listened or downloaded them.
* Like on YouTube, I would love to be able to recommend the podcasts to a friend. It lacks of “community features”.

fd ask
FirstdirectinteractiveaskThis is a regular FAQ service. There are 4 sections:
* changes to internet banking
* charging information
* mortgages
* behind the scenes

* I don’t see the need for flash here. It is simply a list of FAQ with answers. There is usually no call to action, it is simply informative.
* Please note that mortgages is the only product with a dedicated category (and check fd decide!).
* It is just an anecdote, but it is not up-to-date. In the “changes to internet banking” section, there is still a question entitled “why can’t I access internet banking with Safari”. Whereas fd are proud to advertise on the homepage their new compatibility with Safari…

fd clarity
Firstdirectclarity1Providing a few video interviews of satisfied customers is a good idea. I would rather listen to someone I can trust (someone like me or a wellknown expert) than visit a purely “brochureware” website.

Firstdirectclarity2But how am I supposed to choose from all the friendly faces? The most good looking man or woman?… They should at least add a title or give more information when your cursor is on the pictures: profile, product holding, customer since X years, switcher, credit cards customer?
I selected Jennifer, a first direct customer for 8 years…

* In the text only version of fd interactive, you have access to the list of testimonials per topic (personal loans, credit cards, mortgages, high interest, credit cards, account service, mortgages, firstdirectory, customer services and current account)
* I doubt there is no script: if you listen closely to Jennifer, you will hear “in terms of them not being a high street bank, that’s not an issue”…

fd virtual forest
Firstdirectvirtual_forestcf my video review.
It is a clever way to communicate a positive image of the company and urge their customers to register to internet banking and their e-statements service.
Online, most sales are coming from the internet banking customers…

fd magic bus
Firstdirectinteractivemagicbuscf my video review.

fd energy
Firstdirectmagic_buscf my video review.

fd decide
FirstdirectdecideOne of the most interesting services on fd interactive. It is a kind of “deep dive” approach.

Mortgages are traditionally products which are complex, it is a lot of money and a significant commitment for customers. They usually want to talk to a professional. But more and more banks are providing at least a partial online application process. In their search for value, and as part of their integrated channels strategy, banks want to convert more and more customers online.

Qo is a kind of virtual assistant/advisor or advanced product selector which guides the customers: it identifies the 2 most suitable products, it guides you to the right pages on the website and it provides the right telephone numbers.

After the first question (remortgaging or new mortgage), it is a 6 step process. Qo asks you a set of fairly generic questions. During the process, it gives you some info and advice.

Well done first direct. It is another very interesting experiment, even tough I didn’t find it that useful. It merely lists the allegedly two most suitable products, and it directs you to the mortgages category page.
You still need to better understand the products, and I wouldn’t start the online application process before speaking with an expert.

I can only assume what first direct goal was with this service. I would love to find out:
* How many people start the fd decide process?
* Of those, how many answer all the questions?
* What was the uplift in terms of start of online application or volume of calls to a dedicated number?
* What is the next level for fd decide?

Key stats about first direct (July 2007)
* first direct has 1.2 million customers
* 885,000 of them use internet banking
* 390,000 customers use SMS text message banking.
* 43% of first direct’s sales are via e-channels
* 80% of customer contact with first direct is electronic

What do you think?

Written by Christophe Langlois

Based in London for almost a decade, Christophe is an entertaining fintech marketing keynote speaker and a trusted advisor to the global financial services industry on the topics of digital marketing, innovation and B2B social media.

Christophe has contributed to over 140 events in 18 countries.

Currently, Christophe is advising a number of fintech startups on marketing and growth hacking and he is the Chief Marketing Officer of The Fintech Power 50, an exclusive annual programme helping fintech scale-ups to accelerate their growth globally.

Christophe's views on are his own.

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