May 13, 2023

Alex Jimenez: Fuelling Digital Transformation

From Bogotá to banking, Alex Jimenez has navigated a journey of innovation and resilience, leaving a lasting impact on the financial services industry, from Fintech to Digital Marketing.

Alex Jimenez: Fuelling Digital Transformation

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“There’s no such thing as an average day. Every role I have ever had in my career has been in roles where I didn’t have an average.”

These are the words of Alex Jimenez, fintech influencer and Managing Principal at EPAM Systems. From the bustling heart of Bogotá, Colombia, to the industrious banks of Salt Lake City, Alex's journey traces a remarkable arc of ambition and innovation. Born into a family anchored by an engineer father who dreamt of joining the ranks of NASA, Alex inherited a passion for mechanics that would fuel his own dreams. Yet, as an international migrant at the age of 13, and a freshly graduated mechanical engineer during a market downturn, his path was never destined to be straightforward.

A detour into the world of insurance at CIGNA, initially planned as a brief stop-over, evolved into a decade-long tenure that laid the foundation for his MBA. The banking world then beckoned, and he found himself at Fleet Bank, a role that would redefine his career trajectory. From executing corporate strategies to managing project offices, Alex delved into the dynamic terrain of banking, his mechanical roots shaping his approach to translating strategic visions into tangible actions.

His banking odyssey continued at Bank of America and Rockland Trust, where he spearheaded digital transformation projects, and then on to Zions Bancorporation, overseeing strategic planning for the technology and operations. With a career in the banking industry spanning 25 years, Alex took a leap of faith into the consulting arena. At Extractable, he channeled his vast experience into driving digital transformation strategies, eventually becoming the Chief Strategy Officer for offshoot fintech firm,

Today, at EPAM, Alex continues to shape the financial services industry, leaving an indelible mark on every organization he's touched along his journey. Named to several influencer lists in Fintech, RegTech, Blockchain, InsurTech, Innovation, and Digital Marketing, and a regular speaker at industry events, he is a force to be reckoned with. His insights have graced the pages of esteemed publications such as The Wall Street Journal and The Boston Globe, and his influence extends even beyond the financial world. His story is one of adaptation, resilience, and unyielding ambition, a testament to the power of relentless pursuit of one's passions.

We had the privilege of sitting down with Alex and asking him a few questions about banking, fintech, and what the future holds...

AI is currently having its moment in a big way. As someone who was the Chief Strategy Officer at, where do you see AI going and how should we be shaping its growth?

We’re in the early days of AI so growth in this area feels unlimited. Throughout the last couple of decades, we have built AI that was very good at very specific well-defined tasks. For example, in banking we have used algorithms to underwrite simple loans for quite a while. But the development of new machine learning techniques, like generative adversarial networks (GANs) and unsupervised learning using very large data sets, has resulted in generative AI, which is capturing a lot of attention lately. These new applications of AI feel like we are at the cusp of artificial general intelligence or AGI – while we are not there yet, we are getting a glimpse of what that could mean.

It’s an exciting and worrisome time. The current generative AI tools available demonstrate that we need to work on baking ethics into AI. Data sets used for training are highly biased. If we don’t address that issue, whatever we build on top of current platforms will come back to hurt us.

From a banking standpoint, I worry about using biased data that will disadvantage marginalized groups further than they are already impacted. We should be using technology to level the playing field not to make it more advantageous for those that already have advantages.

You’ve also worked as Chief Strategy Officer at Extractable, a digital strategy and UX agency. Can you talk a little bit about the role of strategy in the tech space?

There is an inherent advantage that large financial companies have over smaller community-focused organizations, like community banks and credit unions. That advantage is the fact that large organizations can have significant understanding and management of their technology. That wasn’t a big deal in the past when technology was just part of the back-office of a bank. However, as technology has come to the forefront and become the key enabler of capabilities, customer experiences, and products, it’s now a strategic imperative that all financial services organizations need to consider. At Extractable, and today at EPAM, I help organizations with thinking strategically and translating that into actionable plans.  

How does one become an industry influencer?

I never set out to be an industry influencer. I was at the right time at the right place. In the late 2000s, I began working on transforming Rockland Trust’s digital capabilities. Among the first accomplishments, we introduced our first mobile apps and replaced our entire fleet of ATMs with more capable units. One of our two mobile apps was the first mobile deposit app deployed in New England. That resulted in an article by American Banker where I was quoted. At the same time, our roll-out of new ATMs was featured in an article by the Wall Street Journal, where they also quoted me. Those two instances led to several other articles, requests to speak at conferences, and to write articles for publications.

Soon I found myself being featured as a voice in fintech, which was amplified by my heavy use of twitter and LinkedIn. Today I have nearly 18,000 followers on Twitter and 11,000 followers on LinkedIn. I share daily articles that catch my eye on both platforms, and more recently on Mastodon.

How has being a founding member of the Consumer Bankers Association’s (CBA) Digital Banking Committee and visiting Capitol Hill to meet the Senate Banking Committee shaped your perspective on the fintech landscape?

As a known voice in the space working at a bank, I was asked if I wanted to be involved in an industry group to discuss digital banking. The idea of the group was to share learnings between us and CBA member banks on what was then an emerging type of banking that included online experiences, apps, social media, and other technologies. During the second year of the committee, we were invited to visit with the Senate Banking Committee members to talk to them about digital banking in general, and mobile apps in particular. The most sobering part of that trip is seeing how little the committee understood about technology and the impact it would have on banking in general.

As an industry influencer, how do you stay ahead of the curve regarding trends and developments in the fintech world? What role does social media play in this?

I read a lot about what is going on in the space. I also have close relationships with some of the leading thinkers in fintech like Brett King, Chris Skinner, Jim Marous, Ron Shevlin, Jason Henrichs, Theo Lau, and many others that challenge me every day. We keep in touch largely through social media.

You’re currently Managing Principal, at EPAM's Financial Services Consulting practice, with a focus on retail and commercial banking. What does an average day as Managing Principal look like?

There’s no such thing as an average day. Every role I have ever had in my career has been in roles where I didn’t have an average. Generally, I start by reading what’s new. Living on Pacific Time affords me the luxury to see what has happened already in Asia, Europe, and the East Coast. Most days I spend time on whatever projects I’m working on, speaking with our team or clients. Also, I may have discussions with prospective clients or preparing for those discussions. Finally, I may be working on content such as articles, blogs, podcasts, conferences, or webinars.

What innovations would you like to see happen in the fintech space?

I feel that for nearly 20 years, I have been talking about the need for leadership in financial institutions that understand the absolute necessity to change the business model. As an industry, we have been very slow in making changes. The innovation I’d love to see is not a technology but a change in mindset throughout the industry that understands that we cannot continue to offer 20th century products and services anymore. It seems that the change will happen when a new generation of leaders come into the industry, but that is an indictment on leaders that haven’t been able to change.

With the rapid evolution of fintech, what do you think the future holds for traditional banking, and how can financial institutions adapt to stay competitive?

It starts with leaders that understand where they need to take their organizations. Deploying technology is the easiest part of the evolution. The hardest part is changing the organizational culture and taking your team on that journey of change. I worry about most community-based financial institutions. There will come a time when they find themselves so far back from their SWIFT peers, and the large banks, that they will not be able to evolve. I expect that consolidation in the industry will heat up once we’re over the current economic weakness.

In your opinion, what role does collaboration between fintech companies and incumbent financial institutions play in shaping the future of the financial services industry?

15 years ago, many fintech firms were looking to beat the legacy financial institutions. The market has changed and many of the same fintech firms have pivoted towards collaboration, as they found it very difficult to sell directly to consumers in a regulated industry. For their part, incumbent financial institutions have found it difficult to innovate with their existing teams. The combination of access to consumers from incumbents and innovations from fintech firms seems to be the way forward for the industry. I still see fintech firms that refuse to work with incumbents and financial institutions that only see fintech firms as dangerous vendors to stay away from. Organizations that don’t see collaboration as a way to change the industry will eventually go out of business or be forced to sell.

Images courtesy of: Alex Jimenez, Refinitiv, and EPAM

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