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SMR - Cash Grabber Competition

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We had a great day out at Silicon Milkroundabout where we met lots of clever folks and had a whole heap of fun. We hope you did too – and thanks for dropping by to meet us, it was a pleasure.

Thanks also to everyone who were daring and bold enough to play our Cash Grabber game. It’s the taking part that counts but we also have the happy job of announcing some winners. It was a close run thing. But a photo finish and careful recount reveal that our winning grabbers* are:

  • Johnny Daly
  • Sundeep Sidhu  
  • Fabriano Perciany
  • Miguel Isidoro  
  • Sam Grace
  • Matthew Tay

Well done to you all. There’ll be an Amazon Alexa on its way to you as soon as we have your details. Check your inbox in case you’ve missed it.

*Be sure not to drop your purse or wallet when this lot are around.


Cash Grabber Winner Terms and Conditions

  1. This competition is organised by Capital One ("the Promoter"), whose registered office is at Capital One (Europe) plc, Trent House, Station Street, Nottingham NG2 3FB.
  2. For the purpose of the competition, Terms and Conditions shall mean these terms and conditions and any conditions, rules or requirements within the literature produced by the Promotor or as provided for on the Promoter’s website, as amended from time to time. 
  3. Entry to the competition is open to attendees of the Silicon Milkroundabout event on November 26th and 27th 2016.     
  4. No purchase is necessary to enter this competition. Entrants will need to provide their name and Twitter Handle in order to enter the competition.
  5. All entries must be received by 23:59 on 26/11/2016 for event day one of the competition and 23:59 on 27/11/2016 for event day two of the competition.
  6. The top three (3) cash grabber results from each day will be declared winners. There will be six (6) winners in total for the duration of the competition. The Promoter's decision is final.  No correspondence can be entered into.
  7. The winners will be notified within seven days of the closing date of the competition via their Twitter account. Failure to respond to Capital One within 30 days of contact may result in the prize being forfeited.
  8. Each winner will receive a prize of an Amazon Echo, either Black in colour.  Prizes shall be processed and provided to the Winner(s) within 30 days of the closing date of the prize draw. 
  9. Prizes are offered as stated and are non-exchangeable.  Cash alternatives will not be provided. 
  10. Events may occur that render the competition itself or the awarding of the prizes impossible due to reasons beyond the control of the Promoter, and accordingly the Promoter may at its absolute discretion vary or amend the promotion, and the entrant agrees that no liability shall attach to the Promoter as a result thereof.
  11. In exceptional circumstances, the Promoter reserves at its sole discretion the right to withdraw the promotion.
  12. The Promoter shall not be liable for any loss or damage whatsoever, except for death or personal injury, arising out of the administration of the competition, or out of the winners’ enjoyment of the prize.
  13. The winner(s) may be required to participate in publicity.
  14. All information submitted to the Promoter as part of this competition will be treated in accordance with the Data Protection Act 1998 (as amended from time to time).  Entrants have the right to access, withdraw, and correct their personal data.  Entrants may request such action by sending a letter to the Promoter for the attention of [NAME].
  15. Submission of an application for the competition implies acceptance of these terms and conditions and each entrant agrees to be bound by these terms and conditions and by the Promoter's decisions, which are final in all matters.  Any winner's right to receive a prize is conditional upon compliance with these terms and conditions and providing the Promoter with accurate contact information.
  16. The Promoter reserves the right to amend these Terms and Conditions.  Any amendments will be published on the website; [WEBSITE]
  17. If there is any reason to believe that there has been a breach of these Terms and Conditions, the Promoter may, at its sole discretion, reserved the right to exclude an entrant from participating in the competition. 
  18. These terms and conditions shall be governed by and construed in accordance with English law and each party hereby submits to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the English courts.

©2016 Capital One (Europe) plc, Trent House, Station Street, Nottingham NG2 3FB


Sponsoring Serverless Conference

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Serverless technology is at the very tip of the tech envelope. So you might be wondering why Capital One UK would have its name in @ServerlessConf’s Twitter feed, alongside the likes of Amazon and Microsoft as a main sponsor and contributor of content.

Running code and data serverless is very likely the next revolution for our industry. Our employees and leaders are always listening out for the whispers of change. When the ground began shifting to Cloud Technology around 2007, Capital One started to pivot to embrace that change.

And what started as a snowball has rolled into an avalanche of transformation across every area of our business. We’re moving to a new way of Public Cloud, Open Source, Design Excellence and intelligent APIs.

We’re talking about one of our open source offerings at the conference, Cloud Custodian, a rules engine for AWS management. Cloud Custodian lets you define policies for a well-managed cloud infrastructure that’s both secure and cost-optimised. It replaces many of the adhoc scripts organisations have into a lightweight and flexible tool, with unified metrics and reporting.

Ask any Capital One employee and they are very used to change. It’s by far one of our greatest bench strengths. We are on a journey to transform ourselves into a technology leader that also happens to offer award winning financial products.

Of course, it hasn’t always been easy. Balancing the needs of our customers (always rightly front of mind) and operating in a highly regulated field, all while juggling our incumbent tech offers a unique challenge.

I’ve been at Capital One for more than 16 years. I joined as a network engineer (gotta love IP, still going strong!) back in the early 2000s, and was part of the team that built the original resilient multi-homed ISP network and security post Y2K.

These days, it’s rare for to stay with one company for more than two years,and I sometimes get asked, “How come you’re still there?’.

The answer is simple:

  • Learning is exponential
  • Change is continual
  • The enrivonment is incredibly flexible and empowering
  • I get to work with some of the smartest, most rounded folks on the planet
  • We are rewarded, trained and pushed to do the best work of our lives

These ingredients permeate into our Technology culture, and make up a progressive, exciting and balanced place to work. Companies don’t place in the Top 5 ‘Great Place To Work’ for 5 years running for nothing.

As my good friend Drew Firment, Director of Cloud Engineering at Capital One would say:

“Mix with the forward thinking 1 percenters and feed your imagination to the art of the possible”.




Jon Allen is Senior Director, Head of Technology Ops and Chief Engineer @CapitalOneUK


Serverless at Capital One

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So, what exactly does Serverless mean again?

Firstly, ‘serverless’ doesn’t mean we stop using servers. It just means we don’t have to think about them anymore.  

It’s a way of running code without thinking about the infrastructure it’s running on. Think of it as a layer of abstraction on top of what Containers provide, where instead of managing shared infrastructure, you now only need to manage the code you write.

Serverless architecture pushes you to write small units of code because it doesn’t come with the additional overhead of needing to deploy it to new or shared infrastructure. This also makes the testing process nice and simple, because the scope of the code’s functionality is really narrow.

Here at Capital One UK we’re still in the early stages of adopting Serverless, using it mainly for Cron style jobs and reacting to events produced by Amazon Web Services (everything from automatic data encryption, to cost management & compliance exercises like GitHub: capitalone/cloud-custodian).

My first experience with Serverless technology was when Amazon released Lambda, their managed AWS service, at Re:Invent back in 2014.  I decided to test it out, so wrote a quick Java API, as well as using it to host a simple Nodejs web app serving content out of S3.

Getting used to working with Serverless technologies has been really straightforward. The learning curve is gentle, and once you’ve cracked the different ways of triggering functions and how to access event data from within its context, the actual processing and sending a response is relatively easy.

I’m not sure every use case that comes along will fit in with what Serverless aims to provide in its current state. But I’m still a believer in it as a technology, and have no doubt Capital One will be using it more and more as we continue to deploy applications to the Cloud.

Of course, within a regulated environment there are always going to be extra hurdles. So it’s encouraging to see Serverless providers working with other technology companies like ourselves, and adding the features needed for new cases to be explored.

One of the biggest benefits of Serverless is removing the requirement for software engineers to understand how to create and manage infrastructure where their code is deployed; or requiring a separate operations team altogether.

It’s had a big impact on time too. Our software developers can now spend more time thinking up great ideas, and less time trying to deploy them into production.

I’m really excited about ServerlessConf London 2016, and can’t wait to see how other organisations and individuals are finding uses for Serverless. Being primarily focused at working within AWS, I’d also like to see some examples of developers using Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud Functions to see how they are competing in this space.

If you’re attending ServerlessConf, come over and say hi at the Capital One stand.

See you there!


The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not reflect the view of Capital One.


ServerlessConf 2016

ServerlessConf 2016 will be taking over London’s digital playground from 26 – 28 October 2016. The event brings together some of the brightest minds in the industry, and serves as a platform for developers to share experiences and ideas on building applications.


Three of this year’s speakers are from Capital One.  


IT & Technology Fair

The build

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The central intent of the project was that the app was a useful tool for customers. It was intended as a way to help them succeed with credit. After all, this is core purpose of the business. The most important thing we needed to deliver was the payment facility. However, other functionality was added incrementally after the initial release; things like payment alerts so customers didn’t fall behind with their payments.

There was also a complete UX redesign. This made it easier for us to add things and extend the app without having to resort to a complete redesign - which obviously helped us a lot. It also needed to be brought in line with the UX and UI guidelines that came from the US.

Ongoing development and maintenance of the app is another key focus for us. We have iOS and Android versions and we made a decision that these should be developed in tandem so there was a unity of experience across the two. We wanted the look, feel and function to be as similar as the different systems allowed.

Initially, we didn’t have the in-house expertise to be honest. We had people who were familiar with apps but no-one who had built one from the ground up. So it’s been a big learning experience for all of us – but that’s what attracted me in the first place. It’s about the culture of collaboration and shared experience as much as anything else. There is a very real freedom to explore over and above the day to day role. We’re not siloed. We work as one team towards one cohesive goal. It also helps that we can volunteer at the intent stage to be a feature champion. You can choose – or at least ask – to work on something that is of specific interest to you.

Essentially, our job as testers focuses on making sure the app behaves and functions as it should do. We anticipate problems at the design stage so these don’t become a bigger issue further down the line when they’ve become incorporated into the build. That being said, there was a lot involved in ensuring this was the case. That’s one of the best things about working here; you’re not limited by your job title; you get to do other stuff too. You get to look beyond your own immediate remit. We’re always developing and learning new stuff.  This project exemplifies this. As testers we got to help with development and write the tests required. For my own part, I worked beyond automation testing and took on a certain amount of development on the app, as well as getting involved in APIs and analysing business systems. Roles are becoming blurred. If you have the initiative to take things on, you’ll be given the freedom to just run with it.


Defining the business case

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Managing the business case for the release of our new mobile app was down to me. As you can imagine for a project like this, our objectives were pretty wide-ranging. We needed to ensure a smooth transition to a stable app so our customers could carry on managing their accounts. We also wanted to improve the user experience and functionality. From our point of view, it was imperative that introducing the app didn’t create additional risks and compromise profitability.

One of the key challenges was balancing the expectations of senior stakeholders in the marketing team and the people in our tech teams. It was my job to keep us on point and focused on the intent. On the one hand we had to assess and manage credit risks while, on the other, our software developers were keen to get a product out into the wild and add new features. We wanted to achieve as much as possible but there were commercial realities to consider; time constraints etc. I had to be realistic about what could be achieved.

For the project to be successful, a massive amount of collaboration was needed. There were people involved in the project at all levels and from all areas, and none of them could deliver what they needed to without me and my team assembling the business case.

I’m really proud of what we achieved. Firstly, we replaced an old app with one that looks and feels brand new. It also adds new functionality for customers to make payments. We don’t stand to make much (if any) money from doing that, but we did it because we knew people wanted it and because it’s the right thing to do.

The other advantage of this update was to bring the app in-house. We built it on new code written by our own software engineers. This means we can update the app much more often (every couple of weeks if we need to), adding features that customers suggest in App Store reviews etc. This helps us build trust with our customers, and people get genuinely excited when their suggestion appears as a new feature. That’s not bad going.


Never stop improving. Never stop growing.

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Technology counts for nothing in a business if you don’t have the people who know how to make the most of it. Capital One is every bit as much about ideas, imagination and curiosity as it is about tech. It looks for good people; great people even. But a fast-moving business operating in an equally fast-moving sector needs talent that’s ready to grow with it.

Karen Bowes, Capital One’s International Vice President, HR, is very clear on how the business goes about attracting and developing the people the business really needs:

"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 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.

What’s immediately obvious is that Capital One never settles for second best. And that doesn’t necessarily translate into the years of experience a candidate brings. Software Engineering Manager, Dave Warren know precisely what he’s looking for:

“I recruit for attitude; a clear interest in technology. Right now, I need to hire six Java engineers. But Java experience won’t be the clincher. If you’re a good engineer and believe in good software engineering and Agile principles– everything else is a tool you can learn. So, wherever possible, I try to be tech agnostic.

“I want to hire problem solvers who want to collaborate with a wider team. To be honest, I’d rather turn away 10 people who are right but just OK than hire one wrong person. Because when you do find that ideal person you’ve been looking for, it reminds you why you set the bar so high. They are out there. We’ve hired a lot of them already.”

These are sentiments echoed by Chief Marketing Officer, Amy Lenander. What she looks for in her people can’t be taught; it’s innate. A diamond in the rough is far better than the finished article as far as she’s concerned:

“We’re looking for really great people and they’re not that easy to find. It’s a big ask to expect people to understand the business and what we do; to have that right analytical approach and to be the right cultural fit – to be collaborative; someone who wants to learn and push things forward. Finding all these things in one package is hard.

“The majority of people I hire are fresh out of uni. They’re really smart. They have the raw materials. We can teach them the specifics of what they need to do their jobs.”

This is clearly a business that thrives on fresh ideas and does everything it can to attract and nurture new talent. The message from Chief Information Officer, Rob Harding, is unequivocal:

“We need people who want to push the boundaries with our products, whether it’s creating new products or improving existing ones. We want people who can grab a new piece of tech and see what it can do for us; people who aren’t afraid to experiment and fail; people who enjoy that test and learn environment.

“Graduates can have a big impact. You can’t say that of many companies. Culturally, we’re very open to listening – whether you’ve just walked through the door or you’ve been here for 16 years.”


Making money make sense

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Money can be a complex business. No one knows this better than Capital One. One of the UK’s leading credit card providers, it prides itself on making life easier for people – whether they’re customers already or they have the potential to be in the future. It’s about investing time and effort; thinking about people and what they need, rather than focusing on the immediate commercial payback.

Lisa Walker is Assistant General Counsel at Capital One. She heads up its dispute resolution team and provides legal support to her colleagues in the complaints, fraud and risk operation functions. It’s also part of her role to unravel some of the financial jargon that seems to come with the territory in financial services. As she explains, Capital One see it as their duty to protect their customers and explain their rights to them in plain, straightforward language.

“We’re all about transparency and helping customers get the most out of our products and their features.”

It may seem like a small detail but it reflects how Capital One is working to ‘Reimagine Money, Inspire Life’. Being on the side of the consumer is part of a wider commitment to demystify money and help it make sense for everyone.

Stuart Mather is Capital One’s Community Relations Manager. It’s his job to focus on using the resources of the business to support the local community. One initiative he’s particularly proud of is a programme he set up to teach local kids about money.

“Three years ago, I set about creating a financial education programme for the young people of Nottingham. As you might imagine, it’s a pretty dry subject, so I wanted to make it as engaging, interactive, informative and fun as possible. The programme was based on my own experiences with money in my teens and delivered by business volunteers.  

“Today, it’s become the award-winning and PFEG-accredited Cheese Matters Financial Education programme (www.cheesematters.info) and has equipped thousands of local young people with essential finance skills. These are valuable life skills that wouldn’t be covered by the national curriculum.”


Listening to our customers helps us talk their language

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In November 2015, Catherine Borrie spoke at the MRS Financial Service Research conference. It was a bold and brave new step in her career and provided an interesting insight for the rest of the industry into how Capital One is working to ‘Reimagine Money, Inspire Life’.

“This was my idea. I’ve been along to a few industry conferences now and I’ve always felt that speaking at one would be something I’d love to do. It didn’t, however, make it any less terrifying. There were around 120 delegates in the audience, from both research agencies and financial firms, such as SunLife, Lloyds and MBNA. The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) was there too and there were loads of great topics being covered.

“I’d chosen to speak about my absolute favourite topic – our collections & arrears research. The project was completed over eight months ago now but it’s still something that’s hugely topical within the industry, particularly as the FCA elevates in on the issue of vulnerable customers in financial difficulty. Fortunately, I had a great story to tell around our own approach to being customer centric and our engagement with research and insight, of which this project was a great example.

“As a business, ‘Reimagine Money, Inspire Life’ is our core objective. In this instance it means we want to help our customers succeed. If they fall behind with payments, being there to help them is a key part of this approach. So we decided to do some research with customers in Collection to develop a deeper understanding of the impact this was having. We had to overcome some interesting research challenges around sampling and contact as part of the process but, in the end, it was worth all the effort as we discovered some hard-hitting and hugely insightful stuff.

“We got some great videos which we’re sharing with as many people as possible across the business, either through a Customer Film Club or in team meetings. The project also underlined our belief in the power of being close to the consumer. Listening to customers helps us to talk their language. First-hand fieldwork, video, audio and photos are now all the norm for our research.

“The agency we worked with, Ipsos, covered off the methodology we used and how we addressed the research challenges – and I did the rest. We got some very positive feedback too. The research industry is very active on Twitter and through word of mouth, so it was great to see our session talked about and for it to reach a wider audience.

“All in all, it was a fantastic experience; a great developmental step for me, and the perfect opportunity to share our consumer-centric practices with the rest of the industry. Now I just need to get myself on the schedule again next year.”


Reimagine money. Inspire life.

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The mission statement is a much-maligned phrase. Often couched in the worst management speak ‘corporatese’, they’re often seen as cheap words easily sold or a tick-box exercise that means little beyond the companies who adopt them. So when a financial services company says its goal is to ‘Reimagine Money, Inspire Life’, you could be forgiven for being sceptical.

However, as Karen Bowes, International Vice President, Human Resources, explains, genuine commercial imperatives partly underpin the apparent altruism:

“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.”

So there is more to this ‘Reimagine Money, Inspire Life’ thing than meets the eye. In one sense, it appears to be a clever positioning to mark Capital One out from the financial services herd. Give people something they can believe in; offer them the chance to make a difference, and this creates a reason for talent to join. But what does this mean in practice – what’s the substance behind the words? Eleanor Turner, one of Capital One’s graduate Business Systems Analysts, gives us this concrete example:

“One of our most recent projects was called Dynamic Payment Due. The feature was designed to help customers by alerting them when adjustments were needed on their account and telling them exactly what they need to pay to get it back into credit or up to date. In effect, it gives customers an accurate snapshot of their current credit position if they miss a payment or are over their credit limit. It then encourages them to pay off these urgent amounts, which otherwise would accrue fees to them and could be damaging their credit file.

“This is a great example of ‘Reimagine Money, Inspire Life’ in action. It shows our willingness to help customers that are in a bad credit situation to get out of it, and it isn’t available from other banks.”

As it turns out, this is just one of many ways in which Capital One is helping its customers manage their money. Another recent innovation is its Quick Check product. This has been created to tell customers in advance whether their credit card application will be successful, so they avoid any adverse effect to their credit score.

Ultimately, it’s not what a business says it’s going to do, it’s about what it actually does in practice that counts. It seems that Capital One is prepared to put its money where its mouth is.