Sanjiv Yajnik is known throughout Capital One for his tech-savvy and purpose-driven leadership. But his reach goes well beyond the organization. As a champion of innovation, social justice, and socioeconomic mobility, the executive leads efforts for a vibrant and equitable Dallas.
“By working together, we as a business community have the opportunity to serve as a catalyst for change,” he says.
Yajnik, who is president of Financial Services at Capital One, aims to drive action that can have lasting results. The executive works with other business, political, and community leaders to create a stronger ecosystem of support. That energy extends to Capital One associates. Since 2008, employees have volunteered nearly a quarter of a million hours in communities in DFW.
“We do great things for people who need it the most,” says Yajnik.
Under Yajnik’s servant-style leadership, the company’s South Central region has developed multiple community programs, services, and products related to economic equity. This past year that was especially heightened, says Yajnik, who immigrated to the United States from India.
“Our current climate of social injustice has struck an incredibly deep chord inside me and our organization,” the executive says. “We will all work together to be better within our four walls, the community, and beyond.”
What resulted was the Capital One Impact Initiative, which kicked off with a $200 million, five-year commitment to support growth in underserved communities and close gaps in equity and opportunity. Locally, it came to life through a series of grants and partnerships. The impact initiative builds on Capital One’s core mission to change banking for good, which prioritizes racial equity, affordable housing, small business support, workforce development, and financial well-being, Yajnik says.
The Collin County Business Alliance (CCBA), an organization co-founded by Yajnik, established three pillars in its fight for social justice last year:
- increase Black voter engagement through its already established Collin County Votes initiative;
- support minority-owned small businesses; and
- create internship/mentorship programs for students and young adults to fight for social justice.
“We must take the energy of this movement to drive action that will last long beyond our years,” he says.
The transformative power of people inspires Yajnik. There’s “untapped potential in every person and the responsibility of a leader to allow that inherent potential and creativity to express itself in a positive way,” he says.
Innovating for the sake of customers
The pandemic also brought a rise in digital tech—and an opportunity to reimagine the car-buying experience. Car ownership is essential to the American dream, Yajnik believes. With his help, Capital One Financial Services was able to grow into one of the largest non-captive auto lenders in the U.S.
His team created a streamlined experience for consumers through Auto Navigator, which helps people find a car and prequalify for financing without impacting their credit score. The digital inventory includes millions of cars from thousands of dealerships in the U.S., and recently added an augmented reality functionality.
Yajnik, who was named Corporate Innovator of the Year in the D CEO and Dallas Innovates 2021 Innovation Awards, has helped vault Capital One’s financial services division from 51 team members in 2008 to nearly 5,000 in about a dozen years. He also drove the development of the company’s innovation center in Plano.
The concept of the S-curve is a focus for the innovator: “Many companies fail because they don’t recognize the external landscape and impending changes, or they don’t realize the impact these will have on them,” he told us. “Companies must make the jump to a new S-curve, reimaging their business into something completely new and innovative in order to survive.”
Pillars of strength
Dallas-Fort Worth is a dynamic region, Yajnik says. Arts and technology, along with education, are essential ingredients.
“North Texas has been steadily gaining momentum as the next major tech hub, and it will take continued investment in the arts and education to ensure our region continues to thrive,” he says.
The arts are “deeply personal” to Yajnik. “Not only do they have the power to transform businesses and communities today, but they’ll also inspire our future leaders and cultivate our creative culture for generations to come,” he says.
Meet the innovator
Sanjiv Yajnik was featured in Dallas Innovates’ Future 50 in Dallas-Fort Worth in the 2021 edition of our annual magazine. We talk with the fintech exec about putting people first, reimaging car buying, and what’s next.
On how the pandemic has changed car-buying:
With the need to practice safe social distancing habits, there is increased interest around completing more of the car-buying process digitally. According to research from Urban Science and The Harris Poll, 61 percent of consumers think that the entire vehicle purchase process will change forever due to COVID-19.
The shift to a digital-first car buying process allows consumers to think about the financing part of the transaction earlier than ever before. Rather than waiting until they’ve found the right car, shoppers are able to factor in financing options alongside what the right car is for them all from the comfort of their own home. Because we strongly value the customer experience, we listened to what car-buyers are saying and innovated to give them a way to see their real rates and build an offer that works for them, even while they’re searching for a car.
At Capital One, we reimagined the car-buying experience technologically and analytically creating Auto Navigator to be a completely tailored experience for consumers. Our customers are our top priority, and we are steadfast in our commitment to putting them first—continually innovating for their sake through human-centered design.
Auto Navigator helps consumers not only find a car, but also see if they prequalify for financing without any impact to their credit score. We’ve continued to build out Auto Navigator and today, it provides a digital inventory of millions of cars from thousands of participating dealerships across the nation, with new cars added every day. But we’re continuing to raise the bar still higher. For years, we have been building relationships with our dealer partners who play a critical role in the customer experience. We’ve provided them a digital platform so they can have the tools and capabilities to better serve the needs of customers. I’m excited about the additional features and enhancements we are testing to create an end-to-end confidence-building car-buying experience.
On putting people first:
At Capital One, the health and well-being of our customers, associates, and communities are our top priority.
During this unique moment, we are steadfast in our commitment to putting people first. On March 11, 2020, Capital One’s CEO Rich Fairbank announced measures to achieve social distancing and to work from home on a mass scale as one of the first corporations in DFW to do so. Across our workforce, more than 40,000 associates are using VPN to work remotely and securely. Our technology infrastructure and systems have proven to be effective and resilient.
While adversity continues to change our definition of business as usual, ingenuity and humanity have taken center stage at Capital One. Associates have been encouraged to take care of themselves first and foremost. To do that we have a number of resources from emotional, mental, and physical well-being to time off, homeschooling, dependent care, and how to stay connected. We tend to take care of everyone and everything around us (professionally and personally) and put ourselves last. But physical and mental health is so critical to being successful, so we’ve challenged our associates to make self-care a part of their job requirements.
Additionally, Capital One has committed $50 million to support the rapidly changing needs of communities impacted by COVID-19 and we are committed to growing Black representation across Capital One and our communities because Black lives matter. Recent events have put a spotlight on the deep racial chasms that exist in our society and the experience that surrounds being Black in America. Capital One committed $10 million to social justice for Black communities and an employee gift-matching program to fund nonprofits advancing the cause. In DFW, Capital One announced its new Impact Initiative which will include a focus on racial equity. As a springboard for the initiative, Capital One has partnered with Paul Quinn College and Impact Ventures to elevate the discussion on racial justice, drive positive change, and create a more vibrant community for all.
Our current climate of social injustice has struck an incredibly deep chord inside me and our organization. At Capital One, we denounce racism in all its forms. We are committed to fostering a safe, diverse, and inclusive workplace. This is simply the heart of who we are, and we will all work together to be better within our four walls, the community, and beyond.
On “being your own CEO”:
We’ve all had to make major adjustments in response to COVID-19. The speed at which our whole world seems to have been turned upside down is jarring. With so many people hurting right now due to world events, tragedies, and general uncertainty, we must acknowledge those feelings, honor the sense of anger, grief, and loss, and encourage one another to share who they are and what they’re going through openly and without judgment. We are in this together.
I have also long championed taking care of yourself. Self-care is a critical piece of being your own CEO, because you need to take care of yourself in order to take the best care of your family, your teams, and your customers.
On what’s next for Capital One:
We are a young, founder-led company and our journey is just beginning. Along with its challenges, the current environment brings amazing opportunities to reimagine financial services so that this lifeblood is available and accessible to serve the needs of the community.
The Q&A was edited for brevity and clarity. Quincy Preston and Sandra Engelland contributed to this story. A version of was originally published in Dallas Innovates 2021: The Resilience Issue.
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Our fourth annual magazine, Dallas Innovates 2021: The Resilience Issue, highlights Dallas-Fort Worth as a hub for innovation. The collective strength of the innovation ecosystem and intellectual capital in Dallas-Fort Worth is a force to be reckoned with.
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