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The Many Ways of Measuring a Bank

My job in corporate research at Capital One is pretty close to ideal for someone who's interested in getting a general picture of how a finance firm operates. About half of what I do is examining Capital One's position in the market -- keeping track of what the analysts and investors are saying about us and figuring out the appropriate way to compare our performance to that of our competitors. The other half involves performing data analysis and doing research related to new business opportunities that our internal strategy group is exploring -- a good mix of number-crunching and Web-hunting.

The corporate-research position has exposed me to different parts of the company. It has given me a big-picture view of the company's strategic goals and the major barriers to achieving these goals. Ultimately, I'd like to do more in-depth analysis of these goals than I do in my current generalist role. Capital One encourages internal mobility, and the strong relationships I've built with people in other groups will help expand the set of potential options for the next step in my career development.


8:00 a.m. -- A quick perusing of the newspaper while brewing coffee in my studio apartment in Woodley Park, a neighborhood in Washington, DC.

8:20 a.m. -- As I start my 25-minute drive out to Capital One's corporate headquarters in McLean, Va., I find strange satisfaction in the morning ritual of stationing my University of Chicago coffee mug in between the passenger seat and the emergency brake (my car, unlike my office building, pre-dates cup-holder ubiquity.) I call my friend Marta in Russia, where it's mid-afternoon, and ask her about progress on plans for her new business, a private-equity newsletter. Though I like my job at Capital One, it's fun to live vicariously through my one B-school friend who took a nontraditional job after graduation. I also like to make sure she's following through on her ideas.

8:50 a.m. -- Morning news. My first task at work every day is to look for news items and summarize what analysts from investment banks are saying about Capital One and about the financial industry in general. This summary, which is distributed to the company's senior management and investor relations crew, is especially crucial going into earnings seasons, when management wants to know the Street's sentiment on our intermediate financial results and on our recently announced initiatives.

10:00 a.m. -- Stock update. I don't want to jinx our run, but we're up about 50% since I joined in August '03, so the update has been a fun part of the job. Once a week, I put together a summary of how Capital One's stock has performed vs. industry rivals and against the broader indices. Now that I've automated the data-retrieval system that populates the performance table, I can focus my energies on recalling the week's economic news and on finding new ways of saying, "Capital One Stock surged 2% as jobless claims remained low and bankruptcy rates fell."

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