At work with Alex Jimenez
Alex Jimenez is vice president and senior strategist for program planning, strategy and standards, Enterprise Technology and Operations at Zions Bancorporation. He told Efma’s Boris Plantier about his life and work.
Please tell us a little bit about your background.
I was born in Bogotá, Colombia, and our family emigrated to the US just before I entered high school. We moved, partly for my dad to achieve his dream of working at NASA. While that didn’t pan out, my siblings and I have had opportunities we wouldn’t have had otherwise. Like my dad, I went to school to be a mechanical engineer. After a 10-year career in safety consulting, I received an MBA and moved to banking. I’ve been in banking now for 22 years in various roles including operations management, process improvement, project management, marketing, and strategy development. For the past eight years or so, my focus has been payments and digital banking strategy and innovation.
I’m now at Zions Bancorporation in Salt Lake City where I manage the strategic planning process for our technology and operations planning and delivery group.
What does your workplace look like?
It is nothing glamorous. I have a Windows laptop with dual monitors and a MacBook Air going all the time.
Could you describe your usual working day?
Most days, I wake up very early read banking and fintech news. I follow that with a run. Once I return, it is my wife’s turn while I stay with our four-year-old and get ready for work. My commute is a short 15-minute drive, which is a delight after being used to the New York and Boston commutes. My day is split between meeting with our internal partners, working on strategy with various teams, and talking to industry contacts. I always make time to talk to researchers, consultants, other banks, tech vendors, and fintech firms. I make it back home to do the night-time routine with our daughter and give my wife some respite. The day ends with dinner, some TV and early bed.”
What is your favorite food?
I’ve been a vegetarian for 25 years. My favorite cuisine is Indian. However, my favorite individual food is vegetarian chili.
What do you do when you need a break from work?
Being with my family and running are how I unwind. My wife and I just completed our first marathon and are already planning three more next year.
What is the key to building a successful team?
Presently, I’m an individual contributor. When I did build my own team, I looked for innovative and passionate people who were different from me. Diversity is a must if you want to build an innovation team. I gravitate to people who love to tinker with things, whether a spreadsheet, a system, a process, or a culture.
There is a saying that we learn more from failure than success. Tell me about one of your failures and what you have learned from it.
Several years ago, at a different organization, my team rolled out a brand-new platform to a large percentage of our customers. We knew that communication was paramount in making sure that the rollout occurred without major problems. We sent communications to our customers via all the available channels. We stood up a backup contact center to deal with any issues. Our test rollout was a great success, so we were very confident that there would be minimal problems.
The technical piece of the rollout worked flawlessly. However, the new platform offered a much better but very different customer experience. Our customers seemed to be surprised by the change. Our plans for a backup call center were blown out of the water when our phone service couldn’t keep up with the demand.
The main lesson was not to introduce so many changes so fast. We introduced a new experience and new security measures all at once. The combination was too much. Secondly, we should have assumed that many customers wouldn’t read the details of the change. We should have had tools for them to self-serve. Finally, we should have included some of our infrastructure teams in the planning.
It was a painful experience, but once it was over our customers were thrilled with the new platform.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to succeed in financial services?
I don’t think there is something unique to financial services that would require different advice. The most successful people I’ve known are lifetime learners. These are people who aren’t happy with the way that things are or have always been. Read about what is going on in your industry, your practice, or your area of interest, and then read about things that are entirely different. When you have an excellent experience find out why it happened and think about how that could be brought to your line of work.