Capital One acquires Monsoon, rolls out revamped iPhone app

Capital One wants to be seen as a software company as much as a bank. It is backing up its ambition with acquisitions and recruitment of developers, engineers, designers and project managers.

Capital One, a bank and credit card company, has acquired Monsoon, a design, development and marketing services firm, and rolled out a digital platform for customers that starts with an iPhone app.

The moves highlight how multiple industries are trying to transform to be more digital. Capital One is aiming to be seen as a technology company as much as a financial institution. Capital One previously acquired digital design firm Adaptive Path and its personal finance app called Level Money. Capital One's acquisition of ING Direct, a mostly digital bank, was the beginning of a transformation effort that started in late 2010.

"We see an industry (banking) in desperate need of reinvention," said Toby Russell, Capital One's managing vice president of digital. Russell added that the new iPhone app is among the first physical products from Capital One's digital transformation, which revolves around acquisitions, hiring developers, engineers and product designers and cultural change led in part by design thinking.

"Digital can't be bolted on," said Russell.

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Nevertheless, Capital One hasn't been scared to do acquisitions to build out its talent base. After a few years of evangelism, Russell said the bank has been able to recruit more developers to reinvent what is a regulated industry not exactly synonymous with software expertise.

For what it's worth, Russell said Capital One has multiple tech openings in its various hubs, notably San Francisco and the Washington D.C. area.

Capital One's acquisition of Monsoon is designed to give the bank more talent, development knowhow and design tools to better innovate. Capital One was also beefing up its San Francisco operations and Monsoon, based in Oakland, contributes to that goal.

Monsoon was among the first agencies to deliver apps using Apple's Swift programming language. Capital One hopes to take Monsoon and deliver native apps and better customer experiences. Sandeep Soop, CEO of Monsoon, said the deal with Capital One was a natural fit based on culture and expertise. Monsoon counted Capital One as a customer.

Rob Alexander, CIO of Capital One, said "we found Monsoon shares a common language and values such as product, design and building web experiences in an integrated way with product partners and getting those products to market quickly."

As for Capital One's latest digital efforts. The bank rolled out a native application so customers can manage all accounts in one place, search transactions and customize features. The app, initially available on the iPhone with iPad, Android and Apple Watch to follow, also offers single sign-on and integration with Touch ID or Sure Swipe.

What's notable about Capital One's new app is that the company is aiming to take its analytics knowhow---built from marketing to consumers direct for years---to surface useful information to customers before they get to the usual account balance screens.

"What people want is simplicity and an app that can wade through data and flag relevant things that are action oriented," said Russell. The app features a photo of the customer and a profile first to highlight users are at the center of the experience.

Here's a look at a few screen shots.