In 2022, what is drawing large tech teams to physical office spaces?
Room for collaboration, plus no rules or minimums for days of in-office work. That’s the bet Capital One is taking with a 22,000-square-foot Center City space being developed as a downtown hub for incoming tech talent.
The company is beefing up its consumer fintech offerings in the coming months with projects related to the customer’s everyday banking experience, and it will be hiring at least 100 tech employees to do so, Jay Michelini, Capital One’s senior director of technology, told Technical.ly. An example of upcoming services include early paycheck access, a project the tech team is taking on with “money movement” technology and machine learning-based fraud controls.
The strategy is to “meet them where they are” in a flexible, downtown space.
The hub, forthcoming in Q2 2023 on an entire floor of 1735 Market St., will be home to engineering and product talent, and two executives on the tech team, VP of Product Management Amanda Cronin and VP of Software Engineering Andrey Utis, will be based there. Michelini said the Northern Virginia-headquartered institution already sees Philadelphia as a great home for tech talent, thanks to its many universities and its partnerships with pipeline development organizations like Coded By Kids and Tech Impact.
It also already has a physical home in the Rittenhouse neighborhood, the Capital One Café at 135 S. 17th St., a few blocks away from the innovation space. The cafe has long been offering the corporate team at Capital One direct access to the day-to-day needs of its banking customers, Michelini said, and will provide the tech team some insight into a user’s daily habits, pain points and activities.
“Having done prototyping and product launches there in the past, we’re excited to have it close and to be in touch with customers and our folks who speak with customers every day,” the director said. (This ethos reminds of TD Bank, which just opened its own “innovation lab” to get closer access to customers in University City.)
With so many tech teams going fully remote over the last two and a half years, Michelini said Capital One has relied on internal company surveys that pointed to a desire for some in-person collaboration time. But research was also showing the company that in-person time should be less structured, and more focused on group gatherings and all-hands meetings.
“This is not a butts-in-seats office,” Michelini said.
Instead, expect fewer work desks in favor of open space and large conference rooms for team meetings. The tech executives imagine core tech team groups of six or eight people meeting to work through solutions or have a team lunch. They haven’t yet selected a design lead for the project, but they have been in touch with some local artists to make the space feel grounded in the city it’s in, the director said.
The fintech company is looking for a host of rolls across their tech offerings, but Michelini stressed some specific skills and attributes.
“We were the first financial institution to move to the cloud on AWS, so an AWS certification and that core full-stack engineering skills are important to us,” he said. “We’re also increasingly looking for mobile engineers, and data and machine learning engineers are some critical skills.”