Capital One: Leveraging Information-Based Marketing
In November 1997, Richard D. Fairbank, Chairman and CEO of Capital One Financial Corporation, was reflecting on the success of his company since its initial public offering (IPO) in 1994. The success had come primarily from one business: credit cards. Despite the phenomenal success of the company in this one market, Fairbank's vision for the company was not limited to credit cards. He wanted to diversify to reduce Capital One's vulnerability to consumer credit market saturation and downturns. Fairbank also saw an opportunity to extend Capital One's capabilities into other markets. He saw Capital One as not just a credit card or financial services company but rather as an information-based marketing company. Because Capital One's strategy would work well in other information-driven industries, Fairbank's idea was to concentrate on growing, data-rich industries--large enough to contribute significantly to the company's growth trajectory--and focus on products and marketing channels where Capital One could leverage its capabilities in scientific testing and mass customization. Despite having investigated over 50 diversification opportunities, Capital One was not pursuing any, largely because they were a poor fit or failed to capitalize on Capital One's core competencies. A recent hire, Mike Rowen, and his team, however, had just finished a four-month long investigation into the auto financing industry. It was up to Rowen and his team to decide whether to present auto financing as the right opportunity for leveraging Capital One's information-based strategic capabilities. The team knew that if it recommended going ahead, it would have to put forth a plan that would address any concerns or objections raised by Fairbank.