What We Can All Learn From Richard Fairbank
When was the last time you received a credit card offer in the post? Low-interest introductory rates, affordable balance transfers, an enticing credit card limit that really seems to suit you. Recently, I bet.
You can thank Richard Fairbank for that. The 67-year-old credit card business pioneer who has recently reached the ultimate career success by being named the fourth U.S. bank CEO billionaire by the Bloomberg Index.
But who exactly is Richard Fairbank? And what can we learn from his business journey?
Know Your Onions
Richard Fairbank studied Economics at Stanford University and earned a First-Class MBA from Stanford Graduate School of Business in 1981. With a portfolio of outstanding achievements and a deep knowledge of business, it’s no wonder that Fairbank was able to get ahead of the game. In 1987, with his business partner Nigel Morris, Fairbank identified Information Technology as a means for innovating the Credit Card industry. Instead of the traditional ‘annual fee’ method, this pair of inspiring entrepreneurs introduced the concept of targeting different people with different credit cards. This revolutionary personalised marketing method was so successful that it is still being used in business today.
Don’t Give Up
For several months, Fairbank and Morris’ ground-breaking idea was rejected by major banks in America. Like any great invention, the business-savvy duo was snubbed and refused by corporate giants for well over a year. With endless resilience, Fairbank continued knocking on doors until eventually, a small Virginian bank saw potential in the data collection concept. Signet Bank launched their first campaign in 1990. A mere two years later, Signet’s credit card business had doubled. By 1993 Fairbank became head of the credit card department. It was here that low interest introductory and balance transfer offers were masterminded, which have proven to remain successful many years later.
The momentum continued with Fairbank and Morris departing Signet and launching their own business in 1994. It certainly didn’t take long for the pair to utilise their learnings from Signet in order to create their very own financial beast. One year in and Capital One boasted an $8.9 billion income. They uniquely positioned their business as ‘an information-gathering company that issued credit cards’ and became widely imitated by some of the most respected bank houses in America.
Although difficult to believe, it wasn’t an entirely stress-free journey for Fairbank and Morris. Banking regulators began to question the bespoke algorithm that Capital One used to identify potential customers, which subsequently scared big investors away. After taking a financial hit, Capital One bounced back by realigning their managerial structure and continuing with their success. Soon after, Morris departed the company leaving Richard Fairbank to go it alone.
Give Up Greed
Two decades later, Fairbank has arrived at the billionaire hall of fame. Interestingly though, some of his $1.1 billion net worth is tied up in Capital One stocks. Richard Fairbank, either through self-belief or lack of greed, hasn’t taken a traditional salary from his company since 1998. Perhaps Fairbank’s good wealth has been awarded to him due to his immensely good morals. He once claimed “forget about what’s in your wallet… It’s more about what is in your heart.” A notion that he potentially teaches to his staff who are also awarded company stocks in order to motivate their work ethic.
Considering his huge success, Richard Fairbank manages to stay well under the publicity radar. He also seriously knows how to enjoy life. He is a minority owner of Monumental Sports & Entertainment and hosts National sports events at his very own Capital One arena. His passion for advertising has seen collaborations with celebrities such as Jennifer Garner, Spike Lee and Samuel L. Jackson. He is also a loving husband and father to eight children.
Ultimately, Richard Fairbank is the ultimate success story. But when we begin to dig deeper and explore his journey from innocent graduate to a self-made billionaire, we can appreciate that he has always had heart-warming and genuine intentions at the core of his business philosophy. Something we could all learn from.