An article on highlighted the successful shift that Capital One has made to the DevOps methodology in order to keep pace with its customers’ evolving preferences for digital banking services.

In today’s financial market, many banks are working through slow mainframes and other legacy technologies, fighting  slow bureaucracy that limits innovation. Instead of upgrading their outdated technology infrastructure, most banks are opting to focus on digital imperatives, resulting in CIO’s losing the budget battle and hindering DevOps success.

Capital One’s Vision

Capital One is not one of those banks. Since its founding in 1988, it has boasted less technical debt than its rivals and prides itself on its low levels of bureaucracy. From the start, the executive team was determined to run the bank more like a technology company than a typical financial institutions. For this reason, it has quickly embraced agile, open source, cloud, and analytics.


Rob Alexander, who heads Capital One’s IT department, is proud of his organization’s embrace of technology : “Winners in banking are going to be the ones that recognize that technology is really going to play a central role in how consumers want to bank in the future. We’ve got to be great at building software.”

In 2010, Alexander recognized the trend of customers demanding more online and mobile options for their banking. He shifted his focus to hiring engineers, and matching them with the right business people, with the goal of building relevant software that can be updated and released consistently.

This, he says, was the beginning of Capital One’s DevOps success story. Instead of developers building software and then turning it over to the production teams to test, fix, and push it to production, the teams worked together to complete this process using containers and microservices. They ran apps in Amazon Web Services’ public cloud, which helped the IT teams focus on their core competencies of building digital products.


“Once you go upstream and have development teams truly own their code in production there is an accountability and a quality dynamic that happens that is a very powerful incentive,” Alexander says. “That’s the destination that we’re trying to get to across the board.”

Researchers have confirmed what Alexander foresaw back in 2010: that DevOps is not just for large cloud providers, but is destined to become a mainstream strategy that will be employed by 25% of global organizations.

Financial institutions are actually outpacing other industries in the adoption of Continuous Delivery practices. One survey showed that among banking and finance DBAs and managers, more than 70% utilize database automation for software and 64% of those also practice CD for the database.

DevOps Success and the Database

I believe that organizations who have adopted DevOps but exclude the database are making a mistake. Proper database automation and version control allow the database to adapt on the fly, responding to the need for rapid change, saving 80-95% of the time it would normally take to manually process changes.

Implementing continuous delivery best practices for the database, therefore, provides a clear return on investment for financial institutions today. In order to keep pace with their customers, it would be wise for financial institutions to follow Capital One’s journey to DevOps success.