Capital One builds up its M&A credit

by Scott Denne

Anticipating a digital disruption in finance, Capital One has printed its third tech acquisition of the year with the purchase of Wikibuy, a comparison shopping site. Today’s deal sets a new high-water mark for tech M&A for the consumer credit firm and comes as other banking and insurance companies look to add technology assets in anticipation of changes to the banking and insurance industries.

Capital One opened the year with the pickup of Notch, a machine learning consultancy. In the spring, it reached for Confyrm, an antifraud specialist. Prior to today’s transaction, Capital One had never bought more than two tech vendors in a single year and had only hit that mark twice, according to 451 Research’s M&A KnowledgeBase.

While those earlier deals address the operational side of disruption by adding to Capital One’s arsenal of risk management and credit-scoring tools, today’s move expands its footprint with consumers. Wikibuy provides a price-comparison website, along with services that offer consumers price updates on certain products. The transaction could help Capital One start to play a role, beyond payments, in its customers’ financial lives.

Taken together, these deals follow three or four years of public prognostications by Capital One’s management of a coming digital disruption in banking. Now the company appears to be turning toward tech consolidation to prepare for it. In that respect, it’s not unique among its peers. Allstate, for example, inked its second-ever tech acquisition with the purchase of credit-monitoring service InfoArmor in August. Three months earlier, Principal Financial Group made its first tech deal by acquiring RobustWealth, a maker of customer engagement software for financial advisers.

According to our surveys, the notion of a coming disruption to financial industries is widely anticipated. In 451 Research’s Voice of the Enterprise: Digital Pulse survey, 62% of respondents in finance anticipated a highly disruptive impact on their industry over the next five years – only media and telecom scored at or above that level.