The People Strategy Perspective

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“You can make a positive difference; you can have a real impact on people's lives. You can work for an organisation that is principled and has integrity.”

At its heart, Capital One is a Fintech with a purpose. That purpose is ‘Reimagine Money. Inspire Life’. It's what drives the organisation. It's the perfect marriage of finance and technology. But to bring these two things together in a way that makes a difference, in a way that drives genuine change, you have to have the right people. So Capital One has created a people strategy that delivers for the business as a whole, as well as the individuals in it. Karen Bowes is Capital One's International Vice President, HR. She sees people and the way they mesh – and grow – with the business as being fundamental to the achievement of its goal.

"We really are on a journey here. That in itself is an engaging and attractive message to the kind of minds and people we want to hire. We see ourselves as more than a Fintech. Yes, we strive to make the best use of technology to create better, more innovative and useful products for our customers. But, in doing so, we're achieving our core objective: responsible banking that’s built around customers. We're a Fintech with a purpose – and because we have this sense of purpose, it enables us to craft a unique proposition to the people that work here and those that want to work here.

"I think it's fair to say the financial services industry’s reputation has been badly tarnished over the last few years. In many cases, it's forgotten to put its customers first. That is madness. Conversely, we can realistically say to people that they are, or can be, part of a force for good.

“It makes perfect business sense for us to create products that work for our customers. A business relies on happy customers. But it works from a people perspective too. We have to attract the most intelligent and creative minds if we want to shake things up. We're able to say to these people, you can make a positive difference; you can have a real impact on people's lives; you can work for an organisation that is principled and has integrity. At the same time, you can explore your own potential; you can take control of your career. It's a win-win. Make your journey part of our journey. It's compelling and people are incredibly motivated by it and proud of what they do.

"Attracting the best and brightest talent is essential to any organisation. I think the key difference with us is we focus more on 'fit' and potential. We're just not a tick box or pigeon-holing type of organisation. We can't afford to be. We have to look at things more holistically. Unicorns are rare beasts at the best of times; but we don’t expect one person to be able to embody all of the skills that are needed by themselves. We look at what strengths and what experience we have in a team; then we hire to complement these. It's less about what a person has done; it's more about what they're capable of. How inspiring is that?

“We want to develop our people. They have the curiosity and initiative to explore what's possible; what they have within themselves. We're good at guiding careers, spotting talent, nurturing strengths. But we also believe in handing over the reins too. Make of yourself what you will. We may only have you for a short time so we'll make the most of you and you should make the most of us.

"The way we work together is another major point of difference. We don't do silos; we collaborate. You can see it in our office layout. You can see it in our Agile working methodologies. Everyone has something to offer because everyone is different and has their own perspective. Recognising too that people have different ways of working has helped us work together more effectively. The business needs its dreamers every bit as much as its deliverers and disruptors.

"We have some extremely able and experienced people here; people who have held highly influential positions in high-profile tech companies. Recently, we've hired the Head of Engineering from Amazon and Google’s Head of Design has come on board as well. These were big coups for us. It sends a very positive message because when people ask why they chose Capital One, we can say it’s because they believe in what we're doing.

“We're innovators. We can poach from the leading lights of technology. We can because, at every level of the business, we offer challenging work; fulfilling work. Talking about 'levels' even seems wrong. We have a very flat structure. An open door policy enables the free flow of ideas and creates a better, more connected working community.

"People buy into our values very quickly. Why? Because they are living and breathing them every single day. They're not learned by rote; they're absorbed by doing – and that's so much more powerful than a bunch of made up words that mean nothing outside of HR. They have meaning because we have purpose.

“We're not a perfect organisation. We wouldn't claim to be. But we're always evolving because we're always trying to be better – and that gives you a much better reason to join than ‘perfect’."