Today’s episode is part of a new series we’re running. It’s called Deep Dive and as part of the show, we get an inside look from the reporters writing some of our top stories. From our New York office, reporter Tanaya Macheel joins me on the podcast to discuss the rumors that Amazon was in talks to acquire Capital One. Most of the articles that covered the story focused on why the deal didn’t make sense. Tanaya took the opposite tack with a contrarian piece on why the deal isn’t as crazy as it first sounds.
Below are highlights, edited for clarity, from the episode.
Why would a tech firm want a bank?
Let’s start by saying that this deal is unlikely to happen. Banks were formed to manage dollars and cents. But as they’re undergoing this digital overhaul, like every industry is, they’re now managing data. All customer digital transactions and history are data which tech companies are really good at managing.
Are customers open to banking with Amazon?
I’m one of those people who is a little more wary of sharing my data with tech companies. There’s research that shows that 20 percent of people polled would buy financial and insurance products from large tech firms. Those findings aren’t that surprising given what I said before about banks moving into managing data.
Customers expect banks to keep up with the pace of innovation that technology firms set. 37 percent of people polled said they would be willing to leave their bank if it wasn’t keeping up.
Why is Amazon interested in Capital One?
We’ve seen payment plays from the other big tech firms, but Amazon is the only big tech firm that needs payments as part of its core business. Most of Capital One’s business is in credit and lending. While traditional banks focus on borrowers with high FICO scores, Capital One has opened up lending to almost anyone with an unsecured loan.
Amazon also offers a branded credit card that is issued by Chase. Capital One is also a card issuer and if Amazon could bring that under its own umbrella, it would earn more money.
Lastly, Capital One knows how to get new customers by marketing the right product to the right person at the right time. Customer acquisition is one of the biggest challenges for credit cards. It’s so expensive and can cost credit card issuers up to $800 to land a new account. With the data each company has, they can provide potential borrowers with better targeted offers and reduce acquisition costs.
What does a potential Amazon-Capital One acquisition look like for customers?
When you enter the checkout process now, you get all these payment offers. You can use credit cards and PayPal. You can also use PayPal Credit, which used to be called BillMeLater. There’s also this great company called Affirm, founded by PayPal’s Max Levchin. It’s a digital installment startup that directs you to apply for a no-interest or low-interest credit option. Because this is kind of core to Capital One’s business, that’s how I can see it manifesting.
What could get in the way of the deal?
Capital One has 800 branches and may need to sell off some of the consumer business to make the deal more attractive. Vantiv does Capital One’s merchant acquisition and Capital One would need to deal with that before doing a deal with Amazon. There’s also some lingering regulatory things that need to get cleaned up.