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Immigrant Entrepreneur Hall of Fame: Nigel Morris

 

Country of origin: England

Education: BS in Psychology, East London University; MBA, London Business School

Businesses: Capital One (1995) and QED Investors (2008)

Headquarters: McLean, VA (Capital One)

2015 revenue: $25.1 billion (Capital One)

Worldwide employment: 45,400 (Capital One)

Ranked 112 in the 2016 Fortune 500 (Capital One)

 

  • After obtaining an MBA in his home country, Nigel Morris moved to the United States because it “just seemed to be where the action was.”
  • Under his leadership, Capital One’s sales grew at a compound annual rate of more than 40 percent.

 

Nigel Morris’ father was an army sergeant in England and his family moved often. Morris attended 11 different schools during his childhood.

After attaining his MBA from the London Business School, he moved to the United States. In a 2002 interview with The Independent, Morris described his decision to move this way, ”The U.S. just seemed to be where the action was. I love the can-do spirit of America. Everyone thinks they can be Bill Gates. Everyone thinks they can change the world.”

Change the world he did, at least the financial world. Morris took a position as a management consultant with Strategic Planning Associates (now called Mercer Consulting). There, he and his colleague Richard Fairbank had an epiphany about the credit card business. Banks were offering the same price for the same service to everyone. The industry could be revolutionized by using advanced statistical techniques and information technology to target products and services to individual customers.

In 1988, they left their consulting jobs to test their theory by taking over the credit card division of Signet Bank in Richmond, Virginia. They were wildly successful and, in 1994, Capital One was born when Signet spun it off in a $1.1 billion initial public offering.

Under Morris’ leadership, the company’s sales grew at a compound annual rate of more than 40 percent. All major credit card companies have emulated their strategy. Today, Capital One is one of the top 10 banks in the United States.

Since leaving Capital One in 2004, Morris has used his expertise in information-rich businesses to collaborate and co-invest with various venture capital and private equity firms. In 2008, he created his own investment fund, QED Investors. In 2009, the Washington Business Journal gave him the Angel Investor of the Year award. He currently sits on the boards of National Geographic, ideas42, and the London Business School.

Updated September 2016

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