Capital One to Be Fully on Public Cloud by End of 2020

Capital One Financial plans to complete the exit from its data centers and to go fully into the public cloud by the end of 2020, Chairman and CEO Richard Fairbank said during the bank’s first-quarter earnings call on Thursday.

The McLean, Va.-based bank is expecting its full-year operating efficiency ratio to improve to 42% in 2021, which it attributed to the exit from its physical data centers, continued technology innovation and its consumer credit card partnership with Walmart. The bank is adopting the public cloud through Amazon Web Services.

Fairbank said the bank has “embraced” the public cloud because of the opportunities for “faster-to-market, better products, better customer experience, better risk management, more effective operations [and] more growth,” not just the cost benefits. Although the cost benefits are still there.

Fairbank said Capital One is six years into a digital transformation effort, during which the bank improved its operating efficiency ratio by 400 basis points, even as it continued to invest in that effort. “We are operating today with one foot in the legacy data center environment and one foot in the cloud, as we work to complete our cloud journey,” he said.

Tech companies that are built on a modern technology stack, and that leverage the power of big data and machine learning in realtime, are driving change, Fairbank said.

“Banking is headed to the same destination,” he continued. “Consumers will demand it. Technology competition will necessitate it. The challenge is, banks aren’t built to deliver those capabilities.”

The big question, Fairbank said, is, “How on earth are we going to get there from here?” He said that requires confronting “decades and decades of heritage” in terms of company identity, culture, and talent, as well as technology and infrastructure.

Asked by an analyst whether the bank could have done anything to shorten its journey to the cloud, Fairbank acknowledged the migration would be complete by the end of year 8 of the transformation effort, on the current schedule, but that the bank has learned things along the way.

“To take on the entangled infrastructure that exists at large banks, including our own, is a very, very daunting task, and to set out to rebuild that, not from the top of the tech stack, but really from the bottom, is a tough undertaking,” he said. “I don’t think the path could be much shorter than what we’ve done.”

Also see: Capital One Treasury Head: AI and ML Driving Customer Experience Improvements

Norm DeLuca, Managing Director of Digital Banking at Bottomline Technologies, a fintech provider, recently told Bank Innovation that banks large and small are particularly concerned about the ability to move as quickly as they need to with “cumbersome legacy technology.”

“These infrastructures have been around quite a while, they’re mainframe-oriented and they’re hugely risky to rip and replace, but they’re also barriers to speed and agility,” he said. “Some banks are replacing their architecture, others are working around it by building a more flexible, modular architecture.”

DeLuca said the “monolithic and entrenched nature” of legacy architecture wasn’t designed around the customer relationship, which he said has become a focal point in banking today. He said the ability to invest at scale in revamping the technology stack will be critical for banks to sustain competitiveness.

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