Interesting story that raises many interesting questions about ethics and responsibility. What is the responsibility of the institution vs. individual? How do we decide what is ethical? The article describes a level of abstraction and jargon that happens in the company that belies the very human cost of its actions. Further, how do our actions change when we don’t directly deal with the human face/cost of our actions?
People at Capital One are extremely friendly. But one striking fact of life there was how rarely anyone acknowledged the suffering of its customers. It’s no rhetorical exaggeration to say that the 3,000 white-collar workers at its headquarters are making good money off the backs of the poor. The conspiracy of silence that engulfed this bottom-line truth spoke volumes about how all of us at Capital One viewed our place in the world, and what we saw when we looked down from our glass tower.
Amid the daily office banter at Capital One, we hardly ever broached the essence of what we were doing. Instead, we discussed the “physics” of our work. Analysts would commonly say that “whiteboarding”—a gratifying exercise in gaming out equations on the whiteboard to figure out a better way to build a risk model or design an experiment—was the favorite part of their job. Hour-long conversations would oscillate between abstruse metaphors representing indebtedness and poverty, and an equally opaque jargon composed of math and finance-speak.