‘Do the hard things first’: What Capital One prioritized in its cloud migration

Dive Brief:

  • Successful cloud migration strategies identify the most difficult parts of the shift, and begin their cloud journey by tackling those elements, said Allison Perkel, VP, Technology at Capital One, speaking Wednesday at the Lesbians Who Tech & Allies Debug 2020 Summit.
  • The tech leader called on executives heading cloud migrations to “do the hard things first.”  In Capital One’s case it meant ensuring controls were safe and solid, said Perkel, who joined the bank in October 2019. 
  • Taking a cue from successful software development, cloud strategies should focus on the most complex parts of the process, allowing space to “make adjustments and changes based on the solutions and answers you get from that problem space,” Perkel said.

Dive Insight:

Cybersecurity concerns were at the heart of initial cloud resistance in the financial sector. As cloud became mainstream, and solutions evolved, banks began to saunter down the path of adoption.

After eight years in its cloud migration strategy toward Amazon Web Services, Capital One “just closed” its final data center this year, according to Perkel. 

But the journey suffered a drawback in July of 2019, when a data breach exposed the records of over 106 million customers in the U.S. and Canada.

A malicious actor was able to exploit a firewall misconfiguration in order to execute commands and enable unauthorized access to data, according to the Department of Justice. About 140,000 Social Security numbers and 80,000 linked bank account numbers to credit card customers were compromised in the breach.

But the breach did not deter the company from staying the course of its cloud journey, which”continues to be the right strategic move for the company,” CFO Scott Blackley said in September 2019. 

Amid a successful cloud journey, team leaders can deliver early wins by leveraging the scale and resiliency that the cloud can bring, according to Perkel.

“As you go on this journey, you’re going to find a lot of paths that don’t get you to where you want to go,” said Perkel. “But you’re going to learn from them. Know that that’s okay. You’re never going to get it right the first time, and what you thought was true at one point, was. But it’s not true anymore.”

In the pandemic, early cloud adoption helped Capital One by easing stress on tools that enabled remote work, including access to VPNs and collaboration tools.

“Being in a cloud based company gives you that resiliency,” said Perkel. “You have these pieces built in so you can scale all your processes.”