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Capital One Bank’s Real Banking Innovation

By Thomas McCole

It is quite rare when you see these two words banking + innovation used in the same sentence, particularly as it pertains to the customer experience. In fact, the most recent customer service innovation examples may have been the US inaugural use of the ATM by Chemical Bank, NY in 1969, and before that the drive-thru teller in 1928 by City Center Bank in Kansas City.  Many banks have placed mini-branches in malls, grocery stores, and other venues for customer convenience, but the customer interaction process has remained static. Either the customer approaches the teller window or is ushered to a desk or office for banking service.

Capital One Bank has changed that model with the advent of their new Capital One Cafes designed to reach….wait for it….millennials!  Being well past the age requirement to qualify as a millennial, I stumbled upon the new location in the Lenox Mall in Atlanta quite accidently. My wife and I were searching for an emergency cappuccino and iced tea after a grueling afternoon of shopping in a very crowded mall.  We spotted the Peet’s Coffee sign and a brand spanking new coffee bar and tables. We got our drinks and sat down when I noticed this was no ordinary coffee shop. Just passed the coffee bar I saw the Capital One sign, large banking touchscreen info kiosks, ATMs and small conference rooms.  It hit me that this was café concept the bank had been promoting for the last 6 months on TV. This is “banking reimagined!”

Shortly after sitting at the high-top phone charging tables we were approached by a very friendly brand “ambassador” named Ash.  She mentioned that the café had just opened last week as not only the first location in Atlanta, but the first in a mall as well. I knew that already because no one had carved their name into the table yet!  She went on to inform us about the services available including credit card and bank accounts, money coaching and workshops, the community room for events, and ATMs. Beyond the banking services, the café is a great place to relax or even meetings in the workspace area.  And let me not forget the reason we were sitting there in the first place; Peet’s coffee!

Despite being over the age criteria to qualify as a “What’s in your wallet” millennial, I do respond well to innovation if it’s relevant.  Capital One Cafes are more than relevant on multiple levels. From a banking customer prospective, the environment is definitely relaxed and friendly compared to the average cookie-cutter bank lobby.  The information kiosks provide information about the bank’s services without conversation. Or should you prefer, Ash and her co-workers are there to assist with the human touch. From a business perspective, the Cafés are theoretically self-sustaining with the coffee and beverage sales supporting the rent and personnel costs.  How clever is that? Lastly from a cappuccino swiller’s viewpoint, it’s hard to beat Peet’s! One can only imagine the sales pitch to management to get the funding for tying coffee sales to bank services.  

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