Advancing Capital One's Products and Customer Experiences
Rob Pulciani Discusses New Role as Capital One’s Chief Product Officer, Enterprise Services
September 28, 2022
A year after joining Capital One to lead the strategy and development of industry-defining AI and machine learning (ML) products and capabilities in finance, Rob Pulciani has been named Capital One’s new Chief Product Officer, Enterprise Services. A veteran technology and product leader, Rob was one of the early executives on Amazon Alexa, charged with developing the platform that enabled the creation of Alexa “skills” and forming a profitable business around them. Rob was also responsible for overseeing the Alexa business outside the US, including product, technology, go-to-market activities, and the Alexa communications platform (voice and video calls). Before that, Rob helped create a vibrant application ecosystem around Amazon Fire TV, tablet, and smartphone devices. Prior to Amazon, Rob spent seven years at Microsoft working with partners and developers, leading go-to-market programs to encourage adoption of Microsoft platforms like Windows and Azure.
We recently caught up with him to learn more about his background and his thoughts on the potential for technology to enhance products and customer experiences. The following are abridged excerpts from the conversation.
You played a key role in the massive success of Amazon Alexa, and spent time at Microsoft and other major tech companies — what drew you to Capital One?
After nearly two decades building cutting-edge products for Amazon and Microsoft, I was ready for a challenge in a new industry. Capital One had been on my radar for a long time — ever since it became one of the first financial services companies to build an Alexa skill. I was always impressed by the company and its mission to make a meaningful impact on peoples’ financial lives. Plus, based on my team’s experience building the Alexa skill with Capital One, I’d begun to think of the company more as a technology pioneer than a traditional bank. But it wasn’t until I met with the executive team that I realized just how inspirational Capital One is in the way it prioritizes helping people with their financial lives through the lens of technology.
While Capital One is a major financial services player, it moves in a nimble, forward-leaning way that I think is actually very unique. Capital One was the first bank to go all-in on the cloud; we built an in-house tech organization with more than 12,000 engineers; we launched a new enterprise B2B software business to offer cloud and data management solutions; and we’re scaling machine learning across the company in industry-defining ways. That kind of mentality, coupled with Capital One’s culture of mission-oriented innovation, makes this a really exciting moment to be a part of the company.
You’ve been aboard for a year to accelerate some of Capital One’s core machine learning-products and capabilities. As you settle into a new role as Chief Product Officer, what are you prioritizing?
I’m spearheading our enterprise-wide strategy and goals for the product management function. I really view this role as being the voice of the customer. And that means customers of all types — whether they’re Capital One associates or our more than 100 million customers. It’s about working backwards from the ideal customer solution, being extremely thoughtful, and bringing together all of the elements — the practices, processes, and shared goals — that will continue delivering differential value from a product and experience standpoint.
It’s my job to inspire our team to not just build new technology, but to build solutions that continue to re-imagine what intelligent customer experiences can look like. So in addition to acting as the voice of the customer, this work requires an innovator mindset. It’s not just about building products for today — it’s about bringing a forward-thinking approach to help us see around corners, anticipate where the world is going, and create the kinds of experiences that will resonate with our customers for years to come.
I’m also spending a lot of time working with my cross-functional team and our partners to ensure we keep a laser focus on responsible, strategic development across data, AI and machine learning, human-centered design, and product management. Advanced technology presents so much opportunity for creating intuitive, frictionless, and personalized services for customers and associates — but if it’s developed improperly, the reverse can be true. So we have rigorous practices and frameworks in place, from a technological and process standpoint, to ensure we operate as responsibly as possible and keep the customer at the core of our decision making.
Tell me about your team — the type of experts on it, your priorities, your goals?
I have a real passion for identifying and developing great talent, building high-impact teams, and creating compelling and intuitive customer experiences. To be a successful customer-focused organization — and that is a big part of our mission — we need a diverse set of people, opinions, and functions across the team. As Chief Product Officer, Enterprise Services, I lead a cross-functional organization of incredibly talented data, design, product, and ML/AI teams. When I think of product management and customer experiences today, it’s critical to bring together these four components to make the most impact.
I’m also intent on ensuring our associates are empowered and supported with the right tooling, training and development resources, operating standards, and processes to enable their best work and deliver leading products and services for our stakeholders.
What is the biggest challenge you see in rolling out new intelligent products?
One challenge that companies across all industries are facing right now is that they’ve collected tons of useful data over the past few years, but most of it sits in silos. It’s really difficult to find, collect, aggregate, clean, and analyze the data needed to effectively deploy machine learning at scale. So, the problem becomes: how do you break down silos, unify multidisciplinary teams that touch all of the elements of the user’s experience and responsibly utilize the data to gain maximum leverage?
As I mentioned, Capital One has made a lot of headway here by building out a large engineering organization, going all in on the cloud, re-architecting our applications and data platforms, embracing machine learning at scale, and advancing human-centered design. We’re well positioned to continue creating breakthrough experiences and products, leveraging our breadth of expertise in these areas.
Another key challenge that nearly every industry is focused on is mitigating bias and ensuring AI-driven experiences are developed and deployed responsibly. At Capital One, we believe everyone involved in the AI and machine learning process has responsibility here. That also means ensuring that the cross-disciplinary teams involved in developing and deploying machine learning solutions are representative and inclusive. We’re working on these challenges across several fronts — from research to the development of tools and frameworks. I think we have a huge opportunity to continue contributing to the broader community of responsible AI and to help set the bar for responsible AI practices in financial services.
What excites you most about the opportunities ahead with Capital One?
Our technology capabilities have already become central to how we build our products and services and to how we deliver value for our customers. Looking ahead, I’m constantly thinking about what’s next: how can we keep thinking creatively about using a human-centered technology approach to create better, seamless, secure banking experiences for our customers? Technology is moving so fast and furiously right now — and the Capital One culture is so infused with talent, imagination, and curiosity — that it’s almost impossible to fathom how far we can go.
One thing is clear to me, though: as long as we’re keeping humans — including our customers and associates and their needs — at the center of all that we’re doing in technology and product development, we’ll continue to stay at the forefront of innovation in banking.