Capital One has acquired San Francisco design outfit Adaptive Path, in a move that demonstrates the growing importance of user experience design thinking in financial products.
Set up in 2001, as a "user experience consultancy", Adaptive Path has worked with a host of hot startups and established businesses such as NPR, Flickr, Harvard Business Review, Twitter, and Airbnb. The company is also known for its popular conferences and workshops, such as UX Week, UX Intensive, and the Service Experience Conference.
Announcing the acquisition by Capital One, Adaptive Path's chief creative officer Jesse James Garrett says the firm has rebuffed takeover approaches in the past and hardly expected to find the perfect partner in an industry as mired in legacy thinking and practices as financial services.
Describing the left-field approach from Capital One as "weird", Garrett says: "Somebody came along who finally, truly, seemed to get it. A company with a great culture that shares and values our intellectual curiosity and design sensibilities, that wants us to continue doing great work inside their organisation, but also continue helping others do great work too, by fostering dialogue and teaching what we have learned. And that somebody, remarkably, turned out to be Capital One.
"Believe me, no one here was more skeptical than I was. I simply could not imagine that a huge bank would be able to foster an environment of creativity in which we could truly flourish. But honestly, when it comes to truly human-centered thinking, Capital One is among the top tier of all the organizations I have worked with in 15 years of consulting."
Capital One's interest in Adaptive Path was likely sparked by a recent new hire. In July, the firm appointed Google design whiz Dan Makowski as its first VP of design, with an initial focus on m-commerce and payments.
Makoski is the brains behind Google's modular Project Ara smartphone project - a phone with interchangeable elements that users pick and choose for themselves - and an earlier force in the creation of Microsoft's original Surface touchscreen tabletop.
In a comment on the Adaptive Path blog post
announcing the acquisition, Makowski says: "Adaptive Path, I can't tell you how excited we are today! Welcome to the family. Let's do some epic work together!!"
Capital One is not alone in applying fresh thinking to the user design experience. Fidelity Labs, for instance, has an association with Stanford University's D School to apply the practices of 'Design Thinking', and in May this year held a 'Design Thinking Crash Course with local high school students at its campus in Raleigh, North Carolina.