The pandemic showed the world that the future of banking is digital – Work from Home

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What’s in your wallet?

Do you even use your wallet much these days? Given that so many of us are trapped at home, the only time you probably have to reach for your wallet is if your credit card details aren’t stored in some new website you’re using for groceries or Christmas presents.

For Capital One, the pandemic has reaffirmed the direction the company has been moving for years, trying to replicate the experience it offers in its branches online. The pandemic has meant that most people’s only connection to their bank is through their phone, and Ron Secrist, managing vice president of technology at Capital One, is expecting that digital transformations that have taken place in consumers’ lives will stick around after the pandemic.

Protocol recently spoke with Secrist to discuss how the consumer finance experience has evolved as a result of the pandemic, and what changes are likely to be permanent.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

How has the pandemic been going for Capital One so far?

It’s fascinating times. I remember early in the pandemic telling my team that I thought that hopefully we’d be back to work by the Memorial Day. And now I’m personally just preparing myself for longer-term remote work. I think it’s going to have a profound impacts on how consumers get the goods and services they need, and how they adapt to continuing to need to distance and respond to the virus in the pandemic. And I think it will change the way people buy things forever.

We used to do a 90-minute grocery run every day. It might be still 90 minutes, but it’s while my wife’s watching a show or helping a kid with homework, and she’s tapping away on her Walmart app. By the time she pulls into the spot out in front of the Walmart, they’re waiting with her groceries, she opens her trunk to put them in and drives away. That’s all fueled by a ton of digital innovation that happens on your smartphone, fueled by stored Capital One payment credentials that she has in the app that enable her to easily pay without having to have the physical transaction. And a typical commerce transaction that she’s done for 20 years [has] now been reinvented into something that’s far more convenient, because of the pandemic, but I think [it] will likely stick.

How much of your work this year has been an acceleration of projects you were already working on versus new initiatives to meet the needs of customers during the pandemic?

We’ve been on a tech journey now for nearly 10 years at Capital One to really become the preeminent digital bank. Way back in 2011, when we first implemented Agile and did an API transformation across the company, we were laying the foundations to respond to something like this, even though we didn’t know that [a] pandemic was 10 years out. All of those investments have enabled us to react very quickly to a pandemic and start to build features for customers and even just react in our own operations. If you think about scaled API implementation at the company, moving to the cloud to give us nearly infinite scalability, moving to Agile so that teams are empowered to build the features that customers need when they need them, I think it’s all been foundational in our ability to respond.

Certainly the pandemic put a couple of things in a new light and made us lean in with those core foundational capabilities to allow us to respond. Things like our ability to connect Capital One to other payment networks, whether that’s Apple Pay, PayPal or Google Pay, we really leaned into and started to elevate our mobile experience. We’ve seen a bunch of uptake in PayPal connections, and Apple Pay provisions and Google Pay so that people can pay contactless. PayPal is a great partner for us, because it allows you to pay pretty much anywhere across the internet safely and easily with your stored credentials.

Most of our cloud investments allowed us to quickly scale our digital experiences so that as people had questions, or needed to log in and check their balances in the early days of pandemic, we could handle the volume seamlessly, without outages.

And then I also think that investments just in how we work, we were able to maintain stable call centers by taking our entire call center force — we had about 1,500 call-center agents working from home. And we went to 13,000 in about a week. So we were able to maintain the service levels that our customers needed. And at the same time, we did 500 [code] releases from mid-March to mid-April, which was the amount of releases we did the entire previous year, just to make sure that our customers had support. We were doing 10 releases a day, just to make sure that our information was accurate for customers. It was really a Herculean response, 100% supported by the investments in Agile, in solid technical architecture and the scalability provided to us by the cloud.

So how does that translate into the front end? I think about Capital One as being a little differen

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