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This Credit Card Giant Brings Innovation & Flexibility Back to Finance


Picture a typical office. Okay – now picture a typical office of a financial services company. Boring? Drab? Stuffy? Check, check, check.

Now, just picture the exact opposite, and you’ve nailed Discover Financial Services‘ new office in Chicago’s River North neighborhood, affectionately dubbed “The 606”. Floor-to-ceiling glass paves the entryway, huge windows overlook a picturesque bend of the Chicago River, and working spaces are open-format, giving a communal atmosphere.

When we visited, we were shocked at the small touches – conference rooms with modern, ergonomic chairs, soft colors throughout to lighten up the vibe (even during those long Chicago winters), and an overall air of informality that seems so welcomingly…well, anti-finance.

But of course, a cool office won’t keep you on the Fortune 500. That’s why Discover has renewed its focus on innovation to compliment its stronghold in consumer credit (yup, Discover is the #3 credit card company in the world, folks). New markets include consumer banking, student loans (heard of ’em?), and more.

An emphasis on workplace flexibility unique to financial giants

Discover, like most smart companies, understands that people are the biggest asset. That’s why they’ve bucked the trend of most large financial services industries, and emphasized work-life balance and flexibility.  Employees participate in the YouCare program, which fosters volunteerism without having to take time off, and houses a walking trail, on-site physician assistant, and a gym on their main campus just outside of Chicago. Their PTO (paid time off) policy is generous, more than double the industry average in some cases.

And perhaps most importantly for some of us, flexibility is the rule at Discover. Even employees with a home office at HQ can choose to work on either campus once or twice per week, and working remotely from home is common as well.

Consumer banking is like “a startup within a big company” 

According to Katie Rocheleau, manager of Discover’s Strategic Leadership Program, team members of Discover’s Consumer Banking division act in many ways like employees at a startup.  “It’s a smaller and fast-growing division, so there’s a focus on innovation.” she notes, “Our leadership team is always looking for forward-looking, out-of-the box thinkers. It’s a huge focus for us and new Strategic Leadership Program hires move quickly through some pretty exciting projects.”

Sample projects for SLPs, as they’re called, include anything from applying Lean Six Sigma principles to increase internal efficiency, to developing and executing social media marketing campaigns to promote home equity loans.  Some SLPs work directly with presidents and VPs, given the organization’s smaller size relative to the larger Discover credit card business.

Team atmosphere and impactful work drive high employee satisfaction

Discover team members report satisfaction scores that are, frankly, astronomical: the firm ranks above the 90th percentile in overall employee satisfaction, driven by massive scores on Training & Development and Quality of Coworkers. Work-life balance comes into play too, with incoming hires reporting working under 50 hours/week on average.

The result? A tight-knit group of highly-intelligent, driven individuals working on a growing business within an established company. Doesn’t sound like your traditional finance opportunity at all, does it?


Kevin Marvinac is cofounder of TransparentCareer and resides in Chicago, IL. He’s passionate about using data to uncover awesome career opportunities, road cycling, cooking spicy foods, and running with his mischievous puppy.