Capital One UK hires UX design star to lead disruption charge

Jessica Twentyman Profile picture for user jtwentyman July 18, 2016
For incumbent banks under threat from fintech upstarts, a great digital customer experience is still one of the best sources of competitive advantage, says Aline Baeck.

Aline Baeck

As companies scramble to launch new customer-facing digital products that make dealing with them slicker, more convenient and more personal, it’s a good time to be a user experience (UX) designer.

It’s a particularly good time to be a UX designer in the financial services sector, where incumbent providers are battling to hold back a tide of fintech hopefuls.

In a sense, US-based bank Capital One straddles both camps: it was a disruptor long before the new breed of disruptors came on the scene, but at the same time, it’s an incumbent in its market, with 2015 revenues of over $25 billion and much to lose if it doesn’t maintain its edge.

That disruptive reputation was one of the main factors that attracted Aline Baeck to the role of head of design for Capital One UK from her previous job as head of design at eBay’s Global Product Experience Group. She was also drawn by the bank’s proven commitment to UX, such its 2014 acquistion of Adaptive Path, a San Francisco-based design and user experience consultancy. Three months into her role in the UK operations, Baeck she hasn’t been disappointed by what she’s found:

In fact, I’ve been surprised in a good way at how much support I’m given to do the sort of work I need to do. And I’ve been struck by how big the opportunity is for design here at Capital One. There’s so much difference we can make in our customers’ lives, when you think about how important finance is and how much it can affect them in good and bad ways. The sense that what I’m working on right now can have a real impact has been the drumbeat of my career, so this is a really exciting time to be at Capital One.


A Silicon Valley native, with a first degree from the University of California at Santa Barbara (UCSB), a Master’s degree from Stanford and a 20-year track record in UX design across a range of industries, Baeck has been based in London for five years now. It’s an interesting place to be, she says, from a design perspective:

There are big opportunities here in London. The design landscape is quite different from Silicon Valley, which I find interesting. There’s traditionally been less product design here and more of a focus on traditional design disciplines, such as industrial design. There are great design colleges here, too.

When you’re in Silicon Valley, it’s all about computers, it’s all anyone talks about. Here in London, it’s much more diverse and the team I have comes from a wide range of backgrounds, which you wouldn’t see as much in Silicon Valley. We’re lucky to have that diversity.

Still, recruitment - and continuing to foster that diversity - is top of her ‘to do’ list, she says:

I have a small but talented team right now and I’ve got open positions, so that’s my first priority - to get more talented folks on board to work with our engineers and other technical capabilities. There are 15 people in my design team and I plan to double it over the next year.

Hiring Baeck isn’t the only sign that Capital One UK is taking the fin tech threat seriously. In April, it announced it had recruited former Microsoft and Amazon executive Andy Reeves as its vice president of technology. In May, it signed up for two floors of space at White Collar Factory EC1, a 16-storey tower block overlooking London’s Silicon Roundabout. In the same month, it launched a new fintech start-up accelerator, Capital One Growth Labs. It also plans to hire 200 new technology specialists, including the design experts that Baeck is seeking. She says:

I totally agree that the investment that Capital One is making in the UK right now, in terms of building its tech team and leasing space at White Collar Factory, are critical to it continuing to disrupt an industry that’s becoming more and more digital.

Design has a really critical role to play in that, because if you look where digital experiences have gone as they’ve become more mature and the features that banks have introduced have become more similar, then customer experience is the one thing that still continues to provide competitive differentiation. The app that makes a customer feel they can trust their bank, that feels intuitive to use, that gives them pleasure to use, is what continues to set it apart from others.

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