Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Makes Bold Move, Increases Bet on Financial Giant

Capital One's strategic investments in modern technology are giving it a competitive edge

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Sep 08, 2023
  • Berkshire Hathaway's ownership percentage in Capital One is 3.26%.
  • Capital One's Domestic Card business experiences strong growth.
  • Capital One's technology investments give it a competitive advantage.
  • Spending per customer has moderated, but payment and revolve rates are normalizing.
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Berkshire Hathaway Inc. (BRK.A, Financial) (BRK.B, Financial), the renowned investment firm led by Warren Buffett (Trades, Portfolio), recently made a notable addition to its portfolio. According to the latest 13F filing on Aug. 14, the conglomerate purchased shares of Capital One Financial Corp. (COF, Financial). The purchase resulted in a change in weight of 0.0983%, indicating Berkshire Hathaway's confidence in the potential of this financial giant.

This is not a new position for Berkshire Hathaway. The first time the company started buying shares of Capital One was during the quarter ended March 31. Buffett's firm has been steadily increasing its ownership since then, with a current ownership percentage of 3.26%.

This strategic move aligns with Berkshire Hathaway's investment philosophy of seeking undervalued companies with strong growth prospects.

Domestic card business continues to experience strong growth

Capital One reported impressive growth in its Domestic Card business for the first quarter of 2023. Despite a competitive market and potential economic challenges, the company's focus on marketing, balance growth and purchase volume has contributed to its sustained success.

This discussion will delve into the factors driving Capital One Financial's strong growth in the Domestic Card business and the potential risks associated with this growth.

Capital One's Domestic Card business has demonstrated remarkable year-over-year growth in various key metrics. Purchase volume for the second quarter increased by 7% compared to the same period last year. Additionally, ending loan balances surged by $21 billion, representing an 18% increase. The company's revenue also grew by 18% year over year, driven by the growth in purchase volume and loans.

The company attributes its success in the Domestic Card business to its strategic focus on marketing. The company recognizes that marketing drives the origination of accounts, which serves as the foundation for continued outstanding and revenue growth. By leveraging its technology and analytical capabilities, it has built an organic growth engine that fuels new account acquisitions.

While Capital One has experienced strong growth in its Domestic Card business, it acknowledges a moderation in spending per customer. The company notes that spending moderation is a rational and healthy behavior on the part of consumers. This moderation appears to be broad-based, observed across income bands, card segments and discretionary and non-discretionary categories. However, the company remains optimistic, as payment rates and revolve rates are normalizing, indicating underlying strength in consumer behavior.

Technology as a competitive advantage

Capital One's success in the Domestic Card business can be attributed to its investments in modern technology infrastructure and its ability to leverage machine learning at scale. These capabilities have enhanced underwriting, modeling and marketing efforts, driving growth, efficiency improvement and enduring value creation. CEO Richard Fairbank highlighted these advancements during a recent earnings call.

The company's technology transformation has allowed it to build and leverage a modern technology infrastructure from the bottom of the tech stack up. This strategic investment positions Capital One at the forefront of a small number of players who are embracing digital banking and utilizing technology to gain a competitive advantage.

One area where Capital One is utilizing its modern technology capabilities is in underwriting. By leveraging machine learning at scale, the company is able to improve its underwriting processes, making them more efficient and accurate. This technology-driven approach enables it to make better-informed decisions when assessing creditworthiness and managing risk.

In addition to underwriting, Capital One is also utilizing its technology capabilities in modeling. By harnessing the power of data and machine learning algorithms, the company can develop sophisticated models that provide valuable insights and predictions. These models help Capital One better understand customer behavior, identify trends and make data-driven decisions.

Further, the company is leveraging its modern technology capabilities to enhance its marketing efforts. The technology transformation enables it to access more channels, leverage machine learning models and provide customized solutions to customers. This allows Capital One Financial to deliver targeted marketing campaigns that resonate with its target audience and drive customer acquisition and engagement.

Expanding product offerings and marketing channels

Capital One's focus on leveraging technology in underwriting, modeling and marketing is driven by the numerous growth opportunities it sees across its business. The company continues to expand its product offerings and marketing channels, particularly in the card business, where it has been successful in attracting heavy spenders. Its ongoing commitment to providing exceptional experiences, great products and a strong brand has contributed to its success in this segment.

Additionally, Capital One's technology-driven approach is instrumental in building its National Retail Bank. With a limited physical presence, the company relies heavily on its modern technology and compelling digital experience to attract customers. Marketing plays a crucial role in this endeavor, as Capital One Financial invests in promoting its digital banking services and building brand awareness.

Impact of proposed reduction in late fees

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's proposed reduction in late fees has garnered attention within the financial industry. Late fees are charges imposed on borrowers who fail to make timely payments on their credit obligations. These fees serve as a deterrent for delinquency and help lenders price for risk. However, the CFPB's proposal aims to reduce late fees by approximately 75%, which could have significant implications for lenders and borrowers alike.

For lenders, the reduction in late fees may lead to a decline in revenue. Late fees are an essential component of their product structure, enabling them to partially price for risk and maintain access to credit for a broader range of consumers. Capital One, for example, has expressed concerns about the potential impact on its revenue and the need to find solutions that align with maintaining a winning customer franchise.


Overall, Capital One's investments in technology and its focus on leveraging its modern capabilities are driving growth, efficiency improvement and enduring value creation. By embracing digital banking and utilizing technology in underwriting, modeling and marketing, the company is well-positioned to deliver compelling long-term shareholder value and thrive in the evolving financial landscape.

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