In Conversation with Karen DeBlieux

The Head of US Corporate Banking and Market President for Capital One Commercial Banking discusses her commitment to uplifting vulnerable communities
Gaylord Convention Center, Oxon Hill, Md – Mar 1, 2017 – Capital One Portrait

Q: How did you get started on your career path?

The promise of learning something new every day and opportunities for growth have always been top priorities in my career. A trusted mentor recruited me for a position at Hibernia National Bank, which delivered on that promise and more. In my time there, I followed his advice to work in as many roles as possible within the firm—from correspondent banking and treasury management to banking at regional, national and international levels. Another invaluable piece of advice I received was to always be open to change. So when Capital One acquired Hibernia shortly after Hurricane Katrina, a door was opened to even more exciting, challenging opportunities, which included leading the US Corporate Banking team.

Q: Is there a central mission or focus that has propelled your work?

Capital One was founded on the belief that great talent and great technology could revolutionize financial services and democratize credit. This belief continues to drive our mission today to both change banking for good and advance the economic and social opportunities in the communities we serve. This mission informs our team’s work on a daily basis, and I firmly believe that we have a responsibility to leverage our scale, resources and ingenuity to drive toward these outcomes for the greater good.

Q: You’ve been a key player in connecting community needs to Capital One’s resources. What has that work entailed (and how might it have evolved) during the pandemic?

The Capital One culture is built around two pillars: Excellence and Do the Right Thing. For us, this means both excelling in the job and doing it with collaboration and adherence to our values. At the start of the pandemic, Capital One quickly mobilized associates across geographic locations and lines of business to take part in giving back to our communities, including long-standing community partners. And as part of a $50 million commitment of new and existing funds to support these nonprofit partners who are serving local communities, we expanded, accelerated and repurposed relief grants to organizations who are focused on food and hunger aid, assistance to small business owners and support for low-income individuals. More recently, we launched the Capital One Impact Initiative, an initial $200 million, five-year commitment to support growth in underserved communities and advance socioeconomic mobility by closing gaps in equity and opportunity. This initiative builds upon Capital One’s core mission to change banking for good, and its priorities around racial equity, affordable housing, small business support, workforce development and financial well-being. I’m so proud to be part of an organization that prioritizes this type of community-driven work and excited to see it continue to come to life over the next few years.

Q: Although you often work on national and international scales, you maintain involvement with several Greater New Orleans organizations. Why is it important to you to remain active in your home community?

My family has been in New Orleans for generations, and I come from a long line of individuals who were resolute in their drive to make our community a better, more equitable place. So it’s not only important for me to give back to the community I love, but to set an example for my own children so that they may carry on that tradition of passion for and commitment to creating opportunities for others. Personally, I serve organizations that focus on youth development here in Greater New Orleans—people that are working every day to make a difference in our community. These organizations include the YMCA, New Orleans Police and Justice Foundation, Catholic Charities, Boys Hope/Girls Hope, New Orleans Recreation Dept, LSU Real Estate Facilities Foundation, Jesuit High School, Stuart Hall School for Boys and the Blue Ridge Leaders School.

Q: After more than 30 years with Capital One, which achievement are you most proud of?

I’ve had the privilege to work on a number of initiatives that I am proud of in my time at Capital One, but it has truly been the opportunity of a lifetime to collaborate closely with so many dedicated, inspiring associates and community partners. A recent example of this is Capital One’s commitment of more than $3 million to eight nonprofit organizations who are addressing critical community needs in financial well-being, education, digital access, workforce development, housing and small business support as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. I was so proud to see one of our hometown organizations, The Greater New Orleans Foundation, included as a recipient. These funds will help them offer workforce development program support to displaced hospitality workers, post-hire healthcare workers and entry-level credentialing in epidemiology and environmental management.

Q: What’s the most important piece of advice you would give to aspiring professionals right now?

Of the many lessons the pandemic has taught us, the value of resilience, grace under pressure, and decisiveness are top of mind for me, and I would stress the importance of those qualities to aspiring and experienced professionals. For those who aspire to leadership roles, I would share that in my experience, great leaders are great listeners. They are catalysts for positive change, and they exude respect, passion, energy and humility in every interaction. And most importantly, they do the right thing, even when no one is looking.