Bank

How Capital One transformed into a tech and AI company

Capital One Eno

From ATMs and mobile wallets to chatbots and robo-advisors, technology relentlessly transforms how we store, transfer, and manage money. Capital One moves at the forefront of this transformation — one of the largest and among the first banking institutions in the U.S. to make serious investments in digital technology and artificial intelligence.

Several major financial services firms have publicly announced ambitious plans for AI, including consumer-facing chatbots. Months later, they still haven’t shipped. Companies that aren’t core technology organizations like Google or Facebook often struggle with getting tech products out the door. Capital One is one of the few exceptions to the rule.

Capital One’s transition to digital kicked off when the company formed an in-house software engineering unit and migrated a significant part of operations to the cloud, foreseeing early on that agility would become a key competitive edge for players in the financial sector. More recently, the Fortune 500 firm infused both backend infrastructure and customer-facing channels with smart doses of machine learning and natural language processing, punctuated in March by an industry-first rollout of a gender-neutral and NLP-capable chatbot named Eno (“One” spelled backwards).

In 2016, the Virginia-based lender became the first financial services company to launch customer account access on Amazon’s Alexa platform, allowing users to check their balances, pay their bills, and engage in a wide range of voice-based interactions. The company also announced it plans to be the first financial services company to launch a similar service on Cortana, Microsoft’s personal assistant software.

Capital One’s latest AI-driven initiative is the chatbot Eno, which markedly shifts the medium from voice to text. Ken Dodelin, VP of digital product management, explained, “Texting is the most widely used feature on the smartphone. Ninety-seven percent of smartphone owners text. So we thought that would be a good place for us to spend some time. And we launched the first natural language SMS chatbot from a U.S. bank.

“Through Eno, folks can chat with us in natural language about their credit card accounts and their checking accounts, and we’re able to have…

4 Ways Your Money Can Support Your Values

Giving to charity is an important line item in my family budget — but it’s only one line. There are far more charitable organizations that I want to support than I can possibly give money to.

But what if there were a way to support your values without having to free up more money to give to charity? In fact, there is a way. You can do the same things you always do with your money — bank it, invest it, spend it on utilities, and shop — all while providing important financial benefits to the causes you care about.

Socially responsible robo-investing

I’ll never forget the stricken look on my financial adviser’s face when I told him I was uncomfortable with big oil, tobacco, or firearms as investments in my retirement portfolio. He took a deep breath and told me that I would probably have to be a little flexible about that if I wanted to maintain my passive investment strategy. The only other option would be to individually choose the investments I wanted so that my money was aligned with my values. Not only would that be expensive and time consuming (someone would have to do the stock picking), but it would not necessarily grow my money.

Passive investors like me now have the option of investing in funds that only go to companies we approve of. The new robo adviser OpenInvest offers investors the ability to personalize the specific issues they care most about. You simply create an “issue profile” that narrows down the types of companies you would either like to invest in or steer clear of. The robo adviser’s algorithm then creates a basket of about 60 stocks that match your values and should match the returns of the broader market.

Your money grows just like it would with any investment, but you are supporting companies that reflect your values. (See also: 5 Stocks to Buy If You Love the Earth)

Cellphone activism

It’s hard to imagine life without your cellphone — which makes it an excellent tool to help support your values. Simply changing your cellphone provider can make paying your bill part of your activism.

Whether your politics align…

A Delicious Asset: Inside Italy’s Cheese Bank

In Italy’s Emilia-Romagna region, a traditional bank called Credito Emiliano lines its coffers with edible gold. As Great Big Story reports, the financial institution accepts parmigiano-reggiano (Parmesan cheese) as collateral for loans, in addition to conventional currencies.

Emilia-Romagna is a major producer of parmigiano-reggiano, which is a hard, dry aged cheese made from skim milk. (Similar to how sparkling wine can only be called Champagne if it was made in the region of Champagne, France, Emilia-Romagna is the…