Capital One: Aligning the organization through data

Capital One is a Fortune 500 company that provides financial services such as credit cards and loans to consumers, small businesses and commercial clients. The company operates mainly in the US, Canada and the UK. Since the economic crisis in 2009, the share price has been continuously increasing and reached $91 per share in July 2015. [1] Capital One is well-known for expanding the credit industry by implementing an innovative, analytical approach to assess customers’ risk profiles. It is now one of the biggest provider of credit cards in the US (Exhibit 1), and has used its strong competitive advantage in data analysis to become a major player in retail banking and other services. To achieve this position, Capital One has been very successful at aligning its operating model and its business model.

Exhibit 1: Total Credit Card Market



Business Model

Capital One delivers value by providing innovative and customized solutions to its customers. Its product development relies on the “Information Based Strategy” that combines marketing with extensive data analysis to better understand customers’ needs as well as their risk profiles. Capital One’s main competitive advantage is its ability to collect and deeply analysis information on its customers. For example, the company uses internal and external information to offer a loan to a customer in addition to the FICO score, which gives it an edge over its competition.


Operating Model


The company’s analytical approach to creating value relies mainly on a strong technology department capable of storing huge amounts of data and creating statistical models to predict customers’ behavior. Capital One has been a pioneer in digital transformation and invests heavily in its IT system. The technology structure is entirely developed in-house to foster exchanges between the business team and the IT development team.

Thanks to this strong technology platforms, Capital One does more than 80,000 data analyses per year and 75% of its customers’ interactions are done through an online platform.


Culture & Formal organization

Capital One emphasizes analytical thinking on every level of its organization. Its decision making process is highly decentralized and every employee can contribute and assess a specific issue to make a recommendation if it is backed by relevant data. To sustain this culture, Capital One hires people with an entrepreneurial mind set and quantitative skills. The company uses several tests and analytical case type interviews during its hiring process to select the right candidates.

In addition, Capital One has created a Marketing and Analysis department that decides on what offers to give to specific customers. This department ties marketing and credit evaluation to make sure that the services offered are relevant to the client’s need and also compatible with the levels of risks that the company is willing to take.



Capital One has been very responsive to their customers’ behavior preferences and changes. For example, the company has been extensively developing new mobile services to adapt to the switch in customers’ device preferences, and services such as ClearXchange, a platform that enables peer to peer money exchanges. In December 2015, Capital One announced the launch of a new digital home loan process, that allows customers to pre-quality for a mortgage by uploading the necessary information online. [2] The convenience and ease of this service, (exhibit 2,) enables Capital One to attract customers and then apply its analytical process to delivering the most adapted financing structure to the borrower.


Exhibit 2: Capital One Home Loan Process





Starting as a credit card focused company in 1994, Capital One decided to apply its IBS strategy to other business lines. To enter new markets, Capital One’s growth strategy relied mainly on acquisition of technology companies. For example, the company acquired Summit Acceptance Corporation in 1998 to enter the auto-finance industry. Nowadays, the company seeks to develop its mobile platform and has acquired Adaptive Path and Monsoon, two web design companies. [5] Capital One’s strategy behind its acquisition is to have access to skilled engineers and designers, and developed a stronger mobile apps division within the company. [6]




Capital One has therefore been very successful at aligning its operating model with its core goal of providing innovative, precisely tailored services to its clients. Exhibit 3 sums up perfectly the three main pillar of the Information Based Strategy that are technology, analytical quantitative approach to decision making and attracting highly skilled human capital.

Exhibit 3: Capital One’s Information Based Strategy


Source : [5]








[5] Capgemini Consutling report, Doing Business the digital way: how Capital One fundamentally disrupted the financial services industry







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Student comments on Capital One: Aligning the organization through data

  1. Hi Sofia,

    Thank you for sharing. Being new to the US and the credit space, it is interesting to get a sense of what differentiates one credit provider from the others. While the information excessive credit score is quite unique to the US, it is interesting to learn that credit providers are not limiting themselves to the more general credit scores and are looking for additional data sources to assess the risk of allowing specific customers with a line of credit.

    Would love to get a better understanding of how they compute one’s risk….

    Thanks again!

  2. Thanks for the write-up, Sofia! I really enjoyed reading this article, particularly because when I moved to the US for my undergrad, Capital One was the only credit card company willing to extend me credit given my non-existent credit history! Having said that, however, I was wondering on whether you had any information regarding how good they have been at predicting and managing risk given their riskier client profile. Additionally, do you think they are appropriately capitalized to ride out a wave of customer defaults, especially given that they don’t have customer deposits to fall back on? Thanks again!!

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