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This Is Capital One’s Most Impressive Accomplishment

What Capital One (NYSE:COF) has accomplished over the course of its 20-year existence is rare among diversified financial services companies.

Most firms its size start by accumulating low-margin consumer or commercial deposits before expanding into higher-margin businesses like credit cards.

But Capital One approached it from the opposite direction. It started life as a stand-alone credit card company in 1995 and then expanded into online and branch banking. It's now the eighth largest traditional bank in the United States when measured by assets.

The only other company I'm aware of that's been able to match this was Commercial Credit, a one-time Baltimore, Maryland-based consumer lender that transformed into Travelers Group in the 1980s and 90s before merging with Citicorp in 1998 to form Citigroup.

It was an incredible run to be sure, spearheaded by the legendary financier Sandy Weill, but it's one that Capital One is well on its way toward replicating.

If you look at Capital One's business today, the evidence of its former concentration in credit cards is still apparent.

More than 40%...