The future of banking is “phygital” at Capital One

By Aram Ter-Minassian, MVP, Product Management, and Radha Sankaran, VP, Software Engineering

Thinking "outside the branch" requires finding efficient ways to solve critical customer needs. Cloud-based software solutions enable scaling and integration with new capabilities not previously possible. Developing the right architecture pattern up front is essential to driving availability and reliability.

Discover how we use Amazon Web Services (AWS) to deliver better customer experiences and reliability through “phygital” technology.

First off, what is phygital?

“Phygital” is a combination of “physical” and “digital”. It describes the seamless blending of the physical and digital to provide an enhanced, immersive customer experience. 

A common example of phygital technology we all understand is using QR codes in advertisements to direct customers to a website, but it goes much deeper than that.

Why Capital One adopted phygital technologies

Simply put: We adopted phygital technologies because our customers needed them. We wanted to find a way for customers who may not live near a physical branch location to have the same experience and access to Capital One perks, offerings, and services.

By going phygital, we provide our customers with physical transactions with the convenience, availability, and speed of digital services. Our customers can instantly access our services anywhere at any time. COVID only lit a fire under phygital adoption as user demand for contact-free experiences increased.

What phygital technologies did Capital One adopt for customers?

We didn’t want to scale like a traditional bank by increasing the number of physical banks or ATMs given the high fixed costs and time it’d take to scale, and we didn’t want to go fully digital due to the high value we place on the trust of our customers. 

With these values, our tech teams had a goal to develop and have customers adopt new phygital technologies and services at scale. How did we do it?

Implementing 'add cash in store' for a convenient experience

Capital One implemented a simple solution to allow customers to deposit cash from any CVS location in America. It is called "Add Cash in Store" and provides the accessibility and convenience of digital experiences with the trustworthiness of physical banking.

Our customers can now deposit up to $999 a day and up to $4,995 monthly. That means Capital One customers can access deposit points at a whopping 9,900 convenient CVS locations.

Using AWS to enable physical transactions at a digital scale

Capital One's move to the AWS cloud in 2020 was perfectly timed, as it was around the time that banks and other organizations noticed changes in customers and were devising solutions. AWS provided the foundation for our digital transformation.

Shifting to AWS allowed Capital One to enable physical transactions at a digital scale in a few very critical ways.

Utilizing InComm for easy payment processing

Capital One has partnered with InComm, a payments processor that historically integrated with retailers to sell gift cards activated at the checkout counter. Today, InComm digitizes cash and moves it to somewhere else, say, a bank like Capital One. Our integration with InComm wouldn't have been possible had we not taken advantage of cloud technology in 2020 allowing  us to scale to any footprint. 

Making digital trustworthy: seamless integration available anytime

To earn our clients’ trust, we have ensured digital levels of speed, reliability, and availability. You can access the locations 24/7, with actions reflected in near real-time.

Digital availability 24/7: leveraging the power of AWS for regional resiliency

We had to remain up even during regional downtime to achieve digital availability. Our initial solution, Cashload, was a single region active/passive application with failover times that could take an hour. We switched to AWS Aurora Global to seamlessly reroute traffic in the event of a regional failure.

Transactions at POS must be validated within seconds

When a customer completes their transaction at the register, our vendor requires a response within 7 seconds or the transaction will fail. On our end, we have several downstream API calls and dependencies that could cause us to miss this window.

To consistently meet this SLA, we are using Lambda to process messages in SQS, which allows us to process them asynchronously. By doing so, we can separate the response to the vendor and the actual money movement, allowing us to service our customers more expeditiously. 

With multiple integration points, every cent is critical

To minimize the chance of failure that comes with multiple integration points, we monitor every state of transactions and send alerts if things go wrong. It allows us to seamlessly integrate with our operations and service teams, ensuring a timely resolution of issues.

Closing the servicing gap by making downstream experience a component of MVP

Being on AWS allowed us to easily stand up monitoring and dashboarding to track failures and provide claims agents the information they need to service customer disputes.                            

Learn more about the future of banking at Capital One

Capital One's technology solutions are designed to meet the ever-changing needs of its customers. When developing this framework, we constantly think "outside the branch", utilizing cloud-based software solutions to enable scaling and integration, and developing the right architecture pattern to ensure availability and reliability.

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