In 1997, Capital One established an employee recognition program called “Circle of Excellence.” It reflected one of two core values on which the company was founded. “Excellence” and “Do the Right Thing,” as well as a thought-provoking list of related values, were penned by Rich Fairbank, co-founder and CEO.
Virtually every time Fairbank addressed Hibernia people, he spoke compellingly about the importance of these. The Circle of Excellence program each quarter recognized the top 1-2% leading achievers throughout Capital One. Honorees were selected by a panel from candidates nominated by managers and peers for exemplary performance, distinguished either by the impact on the business or the nature of the accomplishment.
Disaster recovery effort
A Capital One disaster recovery team crystallized in the first week after Katrina, made up of that company’s project management office (PMO) headed by Chris Palumbo. These were the people involved in bringing Hibernia into Capital One’s fold. They morphed quickly into a recovery team and were nominated in October 2005 for a Circle of Excellence award by Miles Reidy. He noted that, “although still legally separate organizations, Capital One associates quickly sprang into action to provide assistance.” The nomination recognized the team’s extraordinary activities over a four-week period and “… for self-sacrifice and exemplary achievements.” The individuals recognized were:
- Steve Braden(security), who drove a car filled with supplies from Richmond to New Orleans and helped oversee security;
- a savings fraud team including Amy Davis, Steffanie Williams, Andrew Kelley, Steve Vermillion, Hillary Guretskyand Kathryn Hornbaker , who provided fraud detection support;
- Marc Cooperand Ruth Futrovsky (corporate communications), who with Hibernia people coordinated contingency and disaster recovery communications;
- Mike McBride(information technology), who with 19 associates helped Hibernia reestablish its IT infrastructure;
- Carrie Bandman, Ed Buckley, Ryan Lorey,Vicky Woods, Tamara Jones, Melissa Brown and Kim Bourne, who helped find temporary housing;
- Kristine Rossi, Anne Byrd, Heather Smith, Janet Wallace, Ying Li, Giri Addanki, Gail Fottrell and Beth McCray, who set up a call center in less than 48 hours to help Hibernia’s 3,000 evacuees report in.
Recognition of former Hibernians
In February 2006, a number of former Hibernia people also were inducted. The announcement said in part that when thousands of evacuees from hurricane Katrina needed emergency funds, people from Hibernia and elsewhere at Capital One stepped up to help the American Red Cross get financial assistance into their hands.
Among those recognized were Beatrice Belisle, Colleen Duplass and David Luke, treasury management; Michelle Carriere, commercial dealer services; and John Chandler, account reconciliation. Because of their assistance, the Red Cross moved a $60 million account of disaster relief funds to the bank, according to David Frady, who oversaw the treasury management area.
As spring arrived in New Orleans, with tender new growth on trees and vines that had seemed dead after the flood, Hibernia looked forward to new directions as it integrated into Capital One.
Through a series of deftly orchestrated communications and events, Capital One explained to employees and customers how the old-line name would be retired and the Capital One brand would take its place.
It seemed to some as if the transition was a natural outgrowth of the “new normal” that emerged after the disaster. So many people were starting over in their personal lives with new places to live, new furniture, and new keepsakes. Why not also embrace a new name and way of doing business?
Also some ‘good-byes’
The spring also brought some tearful good-byes to colleagues who were moving on to other things – some retiring, some finding new jobs as old positions changed or went away, some moving to new cities where the bank was shifting operations to make them less vulnerable.
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‘Customer Day One’
New signs were undraped and new designs unveiled on websites. In addition, new office clothing and name badges, along with new stationery and business cards, seemed to appear almost magically.
Even more impressive, nearly 240 systems required changing to be “re-branded” as Capital One. It was a remarkable operational and marketing feat.
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Special events and new advertising
Part of its success was the way employees were brought into the changes. Capital One staged welcoming rallies with lots of fun-filled activities. The celebrations were designed to help people embrace the transition. Clever advertising appeared in local media, tied into Capital One’s widely acclaimed themes. In mid-May, a campaign reprised its famous Visigoths to help promote “No Hassle Banking.”
That there were a few integration hiccups was probably not surprising. As the bank’s payroll system transitioned over, some employees didn’t get paid for several weeks.
There were Hibernia people who did not like joining a large organization, but others were excited about broader opportunities. Most were ready to say a nostalgic farewell to their 135-year-old name and embrace the bold, new brand in their future.
About a month before the changes, Capital One announced it would acquire North Fork Bancorporation Inc., of New York, paying approximately $14.6 billion.
With this addition, it would create one of the 10-largest banks in the U.S., and since there were no overlaps with the southern franchise, few staff changes were anticipated. North Fork had $37 billion in deposits and 355 branches in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.