The 2013 Tech 50: Robert Alexander

Pushing for rapid systems development, the Capital One CIO says he has adopted a method in which programmers ‘operate at the speed of the marketplace.’


Adam B. Auel

Robert Alexander
Chief Information Officer
Capital One
Financial Corp.
Last year: 47

In an era of banking consolidation, Robert Alexander has been busy doing what technologists at acquisitive institutions do: integrating systems and scaling up. At McLean, Virginia–based Capital One Financial Corp., where Alexander has worked since 1998 and been CIO since 2007, he has been instrumental in transforming a monoline lender into a $300 billion-in-assets megabank. The 48-year-old has overseen a complete IT overhaul and is in the midst of reducing the number of data centers, from 26 in 2007 to three by 2016. Having absorbed 2012 acquisitions ING Direct (adding $84 billion in deposits) and the U.S. credit card business of HSBC Holdings ($28 billion in receivables), Alexander describes the integration process as “taking the best of what we have and what they have.”  The deal making “positions us where banking is going, through digital channels, online and mobile,” he adds. Pushing for rapid systems development, the U.S. Air Force veteran, Harvard University MBA and former Bain & Co. consultant has adopted the “agile scrum” method favored by start-ups, in which programmers “operate at the speed of the marketplace” in collaboration with business colleagues. R&D activity is centered in digital innovations labs at three locations away from bank premises. “We have to compete with talent that wants to go to Microsoft and Google,” Alexander notes.

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