Robert Alexander
Chief Information Officer
Capital One Financial Corp.

The Amazon Web Services re:Invent conference and the South by Southwest pop culture fest aren’t on traditional bankers’ schedules. But the banker label doesn’t fit Robert Alexander, who was a physics undergrad at (and later earned an MBA from) Harvard University and served as a U.S. Air Force officer. He views Capital One Financial Corp., which he joined in 1998 from Bain & Co. and where he has been chief information officer since 2007, as something other than an ordinary bank. “Few realize that underpinning our credit card and banking services is a technology company,” Alexander blogged last October, recounting his keynote speaking gig at the AWS event. “At Capital One, it isn’t enough to have a slightly better IT shop than other banks. We have to be a great technology company” — which means a heavy reliance on engineering talent, participation in open-source communities and adoption of DevOps (development and operations) and other systems-innovation methodologies. “There’s a lot of power in the application of technology to disrupt and reinvent how banking is done,” the 51-year-old tells Institutional Investor. In March, at SXSW in Austin, Texas, $314 billion-in-assets Capital One became the first bank to announce that its customers could access financial information and even pay bills via Amazon voice-enabled devices such as Echo and Fire TV. The company’s Wallet app, formerly known as Capital One Mobile 5 and the first to incorporate Android tap-to-pay, offers real-time transaction information as well as fraud alerts. At SXSW the bank also announced Capital One DevExhange, an application programming interface platform that allows third parties to innovate on top of Capital One–developed technology. Last year McLean, Virginia–based Capital One contributed to the open-source world Hygieia, a dashboard for managing DevOps teams and tools. Looking ahead, Alexander sees a “convergence of the availability of more and more data with the ability to process data in real time. Many banks will find this hard to do.” The answer lies in “machine learning, which allows you to more intelligently get insights from that data that you’re processing in real time,” he adds. “That is a real game changer for banking.”

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