Before Richard D. Fairbank founded what was to be Capital One Corp., he and fellow consultant Nigel W. Morris in the late 1980s devised a plan to revolutionize the credit card industry by developing a “more integrated and scientific approach” to marketing bank cards.
“Fairbank and Morris’s plan would allow companies to fine-tune card product and pricing strategies for individual customers through a decision-making structure blending together marketing, credit, risk, operations and technology functions,” writes Funding Universe.
After getting rejections by more than 20 national retail banks, the pair found a willing partner in Richmond, Virginia-based Signet Bank, which in 1988 launched a new credit card division headed by the two. Business proved to be quite profitable — particularly with Fairbank and Morris’ then-novel idea of balance transfer offers using teaser rates.
In 1994, Signet spun off the division into a new company, Oakstone Financial Corp. After an initial public offering, Fairbank was named chairman and CEO of the company, which was renamed Capital One Corp.
Flash forward to today, and the McLean, Virginia-based company also has a traditional bank with brick-and-mortar branches, and is the country’s fifth-largest consumer bank and eighth-largest bank overall, according to its website.
“Since the founding of the company, Mr. Fairbank has been responsible for overseeing both the company’s strategic direction as well as management of Capital One’s day-to-day operations, and has driven strong organic business growth and executed a series of strategic acquisitions across retail and direct banking, credit cards, auto lending and technology,” the company writes.
Fairbank is regarded as an executive who is “at the top of his game,” according to Money Inc.
“Fairbank didn’t always make the right decisions in the early days of the business,” Money Inc. writes. “Although he’s one of the wisest entrepreneurs in the world, he had to learn just like everyone else does. He took a misstep with a few different ventures, but he managed to land on his feet and learn from the errors.”
Money Inc. also writes about Fairbank’s charitable work and his hands-on approach to raising eight children, calling him “among the most well-rounded individuals on the planet.”
“His love and dedication for family, ethics in business, and passion for helping others places him up there with the level of a Saint,” Money Inc.writes. “While nobody is perfect, he sets a good example of how well life can turn out when you work hard, stop to enjoy the good things in life, and persevere.”
Headquarters: McLean, Virginia
Education: Bachelor’s degree in economics, Stanford University; MBA, Stanford Graduate School of Business
First joined company: 1994
Prior to joining Capital One: head of predecessor, Signet Bank’s credit card division
Named CEO: 1994
Fairbank is No. 101 on Chief Executive and RHR International’s CEO1000 Tracker, a ranking of the top 1,000 public/private companies