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Diversity In Action

Capital One sponsors a five-point diversity program

"It's exciting to be a woman in this organization," says a VP/CIO. "We're focused on a broad diversity agenda within the company and the community"

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Katherine Busser: bringing diverse people to the table at all levels.

Katherine Busser: bringing diverse people to the table at all levels.

Katherine Busser is a Capital One VP and CIO of the company's U.S. Card division. She says the company values and pursues not only traditional diversity but also diversity of thought and experience. "We appreciate the power of bringing different ideas and people into the conversation. Leadership at Capital One is focused on trying to bring different people to the table at all levels," she explains.

"This is really the sweet spot. We've been very successful at appreciating both great ideas and great execution of technology and operations."

Capital One is an innovator of information-based strategy. This blending of marketing, credit, risk, ops and IT creates a flexible program of financial solutions that can be tailored to the customer.

The company, Busser says, always needs designers, architects and systems analysts who understand the business nature of the work. "Because we are an information-based organization, the strategy and technology must advance together in order to compete in this marketplace."

In the IT area, she says, Capital One is looking for people who understand consumer lending products, know how to solve problems, and can manage large projects and large teams to solve business issues.

The company's workforce is a combination of contract labor, consultants and technology suppliers. Its IT organization includes several thousand associates and an extended workforce of several thousand more. Major locations include Richmond and McLean, VA; Boston, MA; Dallas, TX; and Nottingham, England.

Rob Keeling, Capital One's director of diversity, explains that the company's diversity plan includes targeted recruitment, development and advancement, communication and awareness, retention and accountability and rewards.

"Targeted recruitment and sponsorship of organizations enables us to discover talented diverse candidates," Keeling explains. The company allies with diversity-related professional groups like NBMBAA, NSHMBA and NSBE. Company reps also attended SWE's national conference, and the Capital One IT group is sponsoring a conference for women in MBA.

Capital One currently has five networks for associates. They are for women, African Americans, Asians, Hispanics and GLBT folks. The networks help the company recruit by going to campuses and events, but networking doesn't end at recruitment, Keeling stresses.

"When new diverse associates join Capital One the networks will supply peers or mentors to help them learn about our company. We think it's a wonderful perk."

The networks meet monthly with executive sponsors and Keeling's diversity team. "We ask about their needs and what's next on the horizon for community outreach."

When it comes to outreach, "Our networks are front and center," Keeling emphasizes. For example, the Asian network developed an affinity program for Asian associates working in the U.S. for the first time. They were brought up to speed on Western culture and leadership styles, and the program has been "wildly successful," Keeling says.

Capital One's IT women's network started in 2000. It now has some 1,500 members across the U.S., and a group is beginning in the UK.

The company's development and advancement plan is designed to promote equal opportunity for all. "Bringing managers into the program creates a stronger involvement that really opens the dialog and builds the commitment," says Keeling.

Ongoing surveys of associates show work/life balance as a key issue, Keeling notes. "We knew that an environment where associates had some control over work/life would pay off in productivity and engagement."

So flexible work arrangements are part of the retention plan. They include working from home, working on a compressed schedule and flexible scheduling.

Spearheaded by the IT group, flex work was launched in 2004. Associates can work online via laptop, cell phone or Blackberry device. "A majority of Capital One associates have the capability to work from home often," Keeling says.

Under the "future of work" initiative," associates have no cubicles. Instead, they work in quiet rooms or coffee shops in Capital One buildings, which are all equipped for wireless access. "This has raised the awareness of workplace flexibility. It's benefiting everyone," Keeling notes.

Another work/life perk is a parental leave policy that provides benefits for new mothers and fathers by birth, adoption or foster care. The program applies to same-sex as well as heterosexual couples. It provides eight weeks paid time off for new mothers, six weeks for adoptive parents, and two weeks for new fathers. The weeks can be used anytime during the first year.

In 1997 Capital One launched domestic partner benefits and in 2002 added gender identity to its non-discrimination policy. "When we say 'diversity,' 'all' means 'all,'" Keeling declares.

Some Capital One associates are partnering with the Virginia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in Richmond, and similar organizations in its other locations, to mentor M/WBEs and other small business owners. In fact, Capital One was named 2005 corporation of the year by the Virginia Minority Supplier Development Council. Keeling notes that an online portal offers brief video profiles of associates working in the community or taking part in development programs.

The company also promotes diversity with eight heritage months throughout the year. And it hosts mentor walks for women, early-morning jaunts which include a light breakfast and an hour of power-walking while (if your lungs are up to it) discussing development, work/life issues, careers and other topics.

"These have been a phenomenal hit," Keeling says. "When we hosted our first walk in the summer two hundred people registered. We had our fifth walk last November."

"It's exciting to be a woman in this organization," adds VP/CIO Busser. "I feel tremendous support from the networks. We're really focused on a broad agenda within the company and the community."


Capital One
Capital One Financial Corp www.capitalone.com

Headquarters: McLean, VA
Employees: 14,481
Revenues: $10.7 billion in 2004
Business: Consumer financial products and services including domestic credit card lending (U.S. Card), motor vehicle financing (Auto Finance) and global financial services (GFS): home loans, small business finance, savings and healthcare finance. Recent acquisitions are eSmartloan, a mortgage lending business, and Hibernia Bank


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