A Bank with a Tech Heart: How Innovation is the Driving Force Behind Capital One

Capital One continues to innovate and use tech to change the banking industry. Built In sat down with experts from its newest business, Capital One Software, to learn more about the organization’s roots in innovation — and its latest exciting endeavors.

Written by Jenny Lyons-Cunha
Published on Sep. 12, 2023
A Bank with a Tech Heart: How Innovation is the Driving Force Behind Capital One
Capital One
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When asked to reflect upon Capital One’s technological evolution, its associates will likely tell you that the company’s tech-forward spirit has been there from the start. 

“We’re a tech company disguised as a bank,” said David Henkel, director of product management. 

Sriram Vadakattu, senior director of data engineering, agreed. “From founding, Capital One has been a technology-focused and data-driven company,” he said. “Capital One has always understood that technology and data impact how people interact with any service — especially financial services.”

Years ago, Capital One embarked on a technology transformation to positively impact customer products and experiences. Pillars of this transformation included migrating to the cloud, a major milestone that culminated in 2020, and modernizing its data ecosystem, which included the adoption of Snowflake. As one of the first enterprises to go all-in on the public cloud, Capital One needed to build cloud and data management solutions that didn’t exist in the market and were necessary to operate at scale. 

“The journey is never complete,” Henkel said. “But we fully reached our destination of the cloud after four years of building tools, utilities and experiences to facilitate the shift.” 

Vadakattu, who has been with Capital One for nearly two decades, said there was a realization that other companies migrating to the cloud would need similar tools and solutions. 

And so, Capital One launched its newest business in 2022: Capital One Software, an enterprise B2B software business dedicated to providing data management solutions for companies operating in the cloud.

“We saw a real opportunity to share those pieces of innovation with the market,” Henkel said. 

 

“At the end of our journey, we realized other companies undertaking migration to the cloud would need similar tools and solutions.”

 

“We started by asking, ‘Which companies will we work with? What do they need? What are their challenges?’” Henkel said. “One of our first learnings was realizing that companies that appear similar to ours operate in a much different way and needed reimagined tooling.” 

He continued, “The last few years have been about scaling the business, the team and the customers to launch several pieces of technology. It’s a wonderful journey we’re on.” 

 

Photo of the laptop screen of a Capital One team member, showing a window with code and a Slack messaging window.
Capital One

 

 Capital One Software’s first product is Capital One Slingshot. Simply put, Slingshot is designed to help customers take full advantage of their Snowflake investments. 

“It’s our goal to help users optimize their Snowflake environment, give them transparency around costs and provide them governance guardrails,” Henkel said. “With the great power of Snowflake’s data cloud comes great responsibility — and that’s what Slingshot provides.” 

Slingshot is just one way Capital One is expanding its ever-growing presence in the tech world. 

“How often do you get the opportunity to be a part of a company’s history in this way?” asked Vadakattu. “The technology efforts here are going to live on for a long time to come.” 

Henkel is invigorated by the company’s vision-driven culture. 

“There is a clear mission here — we believe in it and rally around it,” he said. “Our brand is powered by incredibly smart, kind people.”

 

Close-up photo of the back of a laptop with stickers on it and two people seated next to each other facing the screen.
Capital One

 

‘Learning is in Our DNA’ 

At Capital One, there is no shortage of buzz around its perpetually emerging tech projects, and Capital One Software is just one example. 

“Who wouldn’t want to be involved with this growth?” asked Monica Abbott, lead software engineer, who was drawn to the multifaceted work at Capital One. 

This sense of possibility is entrenched in the company’s culture. At every turn, team members are encouraged to think outside the box. In 2022 alone, Capital One was granted 724 new U.S. patents — 708 of which were related to software or technology. 

Capital One encourages associates of all levels to pursue their interests and find ways to innovate. Vadakattu and Henkel’s colleagues are continuously pursuing certifications in topics like machine learning and Predictive Model Markup Language.  

“We’re never limited by what is available to us today,” Vadakattu said. “Learning is in our DNA. Any of us can have an idea, take it to decision-makers and generate an earnest conversation within the company.”  

 

“We’re never limited by what is available to us today. Learning is in our DNA.” 

 

The result is associates that are empowered to pursue their ideas and have belief in what they’re doing.  

“It might not be your idea from end-to-end, but you came up with the solution for optimizing a specific piece of development,” Henkel said. “It’s a perfect balance between top-down direction and empowering folks.” 

 

HUMAN-CENTERED APPROACH

“Capital One’s culture supports us in investing in ourselves,” Abbott said. “It truly encompasses whatever you need — whether it’s your health, your family, your education.”

 

Responses have been edited for length and clarity. Images provided by Capital One.

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