First Direct is a division of HSBC Bank Plc and only operates as an internet and telephone bank. It has no branches but services can be accessed in HSBC branches. It was originally launched by Midland Bank, one of the top four banks in Britain at the time, offering telephone banking for the first time in the UK. Midland Bank was absorbed into HSBC in 1992.
The bank began offering internet banking in 1998, with and text message services coming on stream were introduced a year later. First Direct is now the UK's largest text message bank, with 370,000 text banking customers. It attracted controversy in 2007 as the first bank in the UK to introduce charges on its current accounts for customers who didn't have extra products and services with it, as well as not paying any interest on its current account balances. Despite this, it is frequently rated as the best bank in the UK for customer service.