Your background, how did you end up doing what do you now?
I’ve been in banking for most of my career in many different roles. I’ve worked in process improvement, project management, strategy, marketing and managing operations, but what I enjoy the most is strategy. With the advent of digital, my role in operations morphed into a combination of strategy and operations management. Eventually, I was asked to focus solely on digital strategy and innovation for the bank.
Innovation at RocklandTrust sounds fun. How is it going, what are you innovating?
We’re a community bank that operates in the Boston area and surrounding communities. We don’t have the resources of a large bank, so you shouldn’t picture an innovation lab sponsoring hackathons. We rely on partnerships for most of our technology; we’ve really just begun to look at innovation and how we can apply it to building a seamless customer experience. The challenge is that it is designed by our different partners.
— Alex Jimenez (@RAlexJimenez) October 23, 2015
How has the last 12 months been for you?
A year ago we introduced a brand new website and a new mobile banking experience. For the past 12 months, we’ve been making additions to the site, most notably a feature which allows our customers to schedule appointments with our branches. We’ve been working with our online banking provider to design a digital experience that will marry mobile and online banking, but that won’t be ready until next year. We’re also working on other digital experiences but it’s too early to share.
Anything you’d do differently?
Bankers in the US wish we could move faster, even smaller organizations like Rockland Trust. Each new initiative is a learning experience. We think we are getting better at being faster. At the end of the day we wonder if we’ll get faster fast enough.
What Fintech trends are you excited by?
The application of blockchain technology and artificial intelligence to banking processes can change the industry fundamentally, and that’s very exciting. From a customer experience standpoint, I’m also excited about the Internet of things and voice assistants. I can see how we can get rid of screens altogether. We could bank by just using voice activated assistants that are in our connected cars, appliances, or devices.
— Alex Jimenez (@RAlexJimenez) October 27, 2015
For those that don’t know, what is the FintechMafia, what does it do?
We’re a group of friends who work in and around fintech, based in the US and Europe who have an ongoing discussion about the industry. Our name is silly because we tend to go on silly tangents. Imagine a serious discussion of finance and technology mixed with discussions about football, fashion, film, food, beer and Monty Python.
How well are conventional banks responding to the changing Fintech developments? What should they be doing better?
As a group, we’re not doing a great job. I think many banks are focusing on technology too much and are being distracted by the shining lights. We should be focusing on customer experience and then applying technology where it makes sense. The same advice applies to fintech firms, by the way.
Do you think bitcoin (or something similar) will achieve wide adoption, if so how soon, or why not?
In digital years, bitcoin has been out there for a long time and there is very little traction with the average person. Imagine if Facebook had taken this long to get the adoption that bitcoin has now; none of us would remember it. I still like the idea of cryptocurrencies, but the threat of regulation, misconceptions that bitcoin is for illegal trade (thanks Silk Road), and that it’s not really fixing a problem faced by the majority of people will keep it in the fringes for crypto aficionados. If someone can figure out how to use bitcoin in a simple interface while solving a real problem, then it could change its future.
We have a lot of fintech innovation happening in Ireland and in Europe in general – how does the US banking sector compare?
Silicon Valley is still the king. New York, Boston, and other cities also have thriving fintech communities, but they don’t match Silicon Valley or London. What we have going is 7,000 banks in the US. Every day more and more of these banks are beginning to pay attention, invest and partner with the fintech sector.
Your plans for the future?
I plan to focus more on the customer experience and try not to get too distracted by the coolest thing out there.
Blogging, who do you follow / like?
I read a lot, but I don’t limit my reading to one specific set of blogs. Of course I read everything that my fellow fintech mafia members write, particularly Jim Marous (thefinancialbrand.com), Duena Blomstrom (duenablomstrom.com), Chris Skinner (thefinanser.co.uk), Brett King (breakingbanks.com), Mike King (bankwide.com) and Ron Shevlin (thefinancialbrand.com/snarketing).
How do you manage life / work, and online / offline balance?
I’m not sure what offline means anymore. My wife and I are heavily into digital so our devices are always with us. Our mobile phones keep us connected to each other at all times. I see digital as a way to enhance our relationship. As far as balancing life and work, I enjoy my work and it’s just part of life. We have a one year old daughter so her schedule dictates what we do and when we do it.
Anything else to add / we should have asked you?
Aside from the fintech mafia, I keep current by participating in the Consumer Banking Association’s Digital Channel Committee. I am the current Chair of this organization. We have over thirty members from all kinds of American banks. We share best practices, discuss challenges and work with the CBA on any legislative or regulatory issues. We also work on putting together programming specific to digital banking at the CBA’s annual convention CBA Live. With the CBA I had the privilege to go to Capitol Hill and visit with the members of the US Senate Banking Committee and their staff.