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First Direct CEO quits in surprise move

Boss hops to competitor bank during lockdown

The Chief Executive of First Direct, Joe Gordon, has left the company in what appears to be a surprise departure.

First Direct

First Direct, which is part of HSBC, lost its star CEO in May 2020 during the coronavirus lockdown period. Gordon, who became head of First Direct aged 33, was the youngest boss of a major UK bank. Mountain man: The bank boss who reached the top aged 33

He previously worked for Sainsbury’s, BT and for HSBC as head of its call centres for two years, before joining First Direct in February 2017 as its new CEO.

First Direct is a bank without branches, relying on telephone banking, website and apps to serve its 1.4 million customers. It has a reputation for good quality service and has won numerous awards since being created as an arm of HSBC (previously Midland Bank) in October 1989.

It was only last year that First Direct was overtaken by Monzo, an online-only “challenger” bank, in the MoneySavingExpert banking customer service poll.

Marcus Williamson, editor of CEOemail.com, a consumer information website which helps people to escalate unresolved issues, said:

“The first I knew of this was when I sent an email to Joe Gordon and it was returned undelivered. I checked on the First Direct and HSBC websites and could find no information about the change. First Direct’s own website still shows him as the head of the company.“

I’m surprised that a company like First Direct, which has such a good record for customer service, would be so slow to tell the world about its change of CEO. Openness and transparency are vital for any customer-facing organisation, especially during the current health crisis.

Who’s in charge at First Direct now?

Chief Executive succession for any major company is usually a very serious and well-planned process. So, following a surprise change such as this, it’s common for the company to be without a CEO for some time.

When asked for the name of the new CEO at First Direct, the current HSBC UK CEO, Ian Stuart, replied succinctly stating only that the “Process to appoint is ongoing.”

Where next for Joe Gordon?

Joe Gordon’s LinkedIn profile says that, as of May 2020, he is now working for Heyman AI Limited, based in London. Heyman AI is in the process of creating a “challenger” bank, named Yuu, which has applied for a UK banking licence and will be competing against First Direct.

And, like First Direct, this new digital bank will be online only, without physical branches. Gordon has joined Yuu as its Head of Retail Banking, reporting to the company’s CEO and founder, Selman Turk.

Gordon not only led First Direct but was also a Vice President of The Institute of Customer Service, an organisation which provides training and accreditation in customer service. It seems that he will continue in this role.