The Leadership Perspective

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“We have the opportunity to be a real force for good.”

Chris Newkirk has been at Capital One for 8 years. In his role as CEO, he oversees the UK business as General Manager, as well as taking charge of operations in Canada.

“A business is stronger when it has a clear direction; a genuine sense of purpose. For Capital One,  ‘Reimagine Money, Inspire Life’ gives us this commonly held goal. It also makes for a more interesting and engaging environment. Our purpose, together with our technological capabilities and a highly talented and motivated workforce, mean we have the opportunity to be a real force for good. We’re in a position to help our customers succeed financially.

“The technology we all carry with us these days, be that in tablet or mobile form, means we can have a more connected and supportive relationship with our customers. We can really help change people’s behaviours in a way that’s positive for them. We do this in a number of ways, our products being one of the main ones.

“In the past, if you wanted to sign up for alerts, you had that choice. Now our customers are automatically enrolled so we can remind them when payments are due. It’s about joining the dots, so our customers are free to focus on their lives. They know we’re in their corner. It’s a relationship built on trust – and that’s as it should be.

“We’re encouraging customers to pay down their debt with us as quickly as possible too; particularly ones we’ve observed making smaller payments. We’re experimenting with messaging to see what works to encourage and influence them to make the choices that are right for them. They save on the interest they pay us which comes out of our pockets revenue wise. However, we’re comfortable with taking a short-term hit for the longer term gain of building strong customer relationships.

“Banks have a largely earned reputation for not doing the right things by their customers. It’s important for us to stand apart from these providers. We don’t want to do this through advertising campaigns; it very probably can’t be done this way. Besides, talk is cheap. We want to be judged on our actions and build a positive reputation by doing the right thing by our customers.

“Having this objective means we attract good, talented people who want get fired up by the fact that we stand for something they can believe in. In the tech space, in particular, people want to work on solving interesting problems. We can absolutely offer that here.

“People’s personal financial lives are complex. Some businesses thrive on creating friction in their customer relationships that prevent their customers from succeeding. We want to do the opposite. We want to draw on the talent of Software Engineers and others to help us with that.

“My own role involves setting the bar really high in terms of what it means to help customer succeed financially. It’s about giving the team the freedom to do what they need to do. I’m not the one coming up with the ideas; my job is to go out and find the people that make it happen.”