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Leadership and Innovation in the Banking Sector


Episode Summary

In this insightful episode of Behind the Growth, host Mudassar Malik engages with Nelson De Jesus, Senior Vice President and Chief Information Officer at CIBC. They dive into Nelson’s unexpected journey into the banking and IT sector, revealing the serendipitous encounters and choices that shaped his career. Nelson shares his philosophy on leadership, emphasizing the importance of vision, work ethic, collaboration, and the ability to seek improvement, both professionally and personally constantly.

Nelson discusses the transformative impact of AI and generative technologies in banking, drawing parallels and distinctions with past tech trends like blockchain and crypto. He provides a nuanced perspective on the adoption of these technologies, highlighting their potential to revolutionize the financial industry while acknowledging the challenges of integrating AI into traditional banking systems.

The conversation then shifts to experiential banking and the future of digital transformation within the sector. Nelson explores the evolution of banking services, the role of smart branches, and the necessity for banks to adapt to changing customer expectations in the digital age. He underscores the continuous pursuit of innovation and the strategic importance of maintaining stability and trust in the rapidly evolving financial landscape.

Featured Guest

  • Name: Nelson De Jesus
  • What he does: SVP & CIO, Personal Banking and Direct Financial Services Technology
  • Company: CIBC
  • Noteworthy: With a 25-year tenure in the financial sector, mainly dedicated to Capital Markets and Technology, Nelson has been a driving force at CIBC—not once, but twice. His second chapter with the bank began in 2012, shaping the future of Personal Banking and DFS Technology as he leads a team of 2,000 toward turning client dreams into reality.

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Key Insights

Serendipitous Career Journey
Nelson De Jesus shares his unexpected path to becoming the Senior Vice President and Chief Information Officer at CIBC, illustrating the unpredictability of career development. Initially unsure of his direction after resigning from a mutual fund company, Nelson’s chance encounter led to a pivotal role at CIBC. This insight underscores the importance of openness to opportunities and the role of serendipity in career advancement.

Leadership and Continuous Improvement
Nelson emphasizes the significance of vision, work ethic, collaboration, and a commitment to continuous improvement as cornerstones of effective leadership. He advocates for striving to be better in all aspects of life, not just professionally. This approach to leadership and personal growth highlights the value of self-reflection and the pursuit of excellence.

Digital Transformation in Banking
Discussing the future of banking, Nelson explores the transition towards experiential banking and the integration of digital technologies. He highlights the shift from traditional to digital services, addressing the need for banks to adapt to consumer expectations for more personalized and efficient services. This insight points to the evolving landscape of banking, where digital innovation plays a critical role in shaping the future of the industry.

I'm very positive to [open banking], but I'm also very skeptical as to the timeframe.

Episode Highlights

The Serendipitous Beginning

Nelson De Jesus shares the unplanned start of his career in the banking sector, which was a result of a chance meeting. His journey from an unsure beginning to a significant role in CIBC highlights the importance of openness to opportunities and the unpredictability of career paths.

“‘Aren’t you working?’ ‘No, I quit.’ ‘Okay.’ And so she’s like, ‘what do you want to do?’
I said, ‘I’m not sure. I know what I don’t want to do, but I don’t know what I do want to do.’”

Embracing Change and Self-awareness

Nelson discusses a pivotal moment in 2006 that reshaped his career trajectory. He learned the importance of teamwork and managing a large team effectively, contrasting his previous workaholic tendencies with a more balanced and sustainable approach.

“If you’re good at something, typically people will give you more. […] And so I picked up a bit more, a bit more, a bit more, a bit more, but I never really moved past the knowing how to do things on my own and learned that you need others to do those things as well.”

Generative AI and Its Impact

The conversation shifts to the topic of generative AI, its differentiation from blockchain and crypto, and its potential applications in the financial sector. Nelson expresses optimism about AI’s capabilities, especially in improving predictions and generating content.

“But anyway, the point is with AI […] it looks for big patterns of data […] Generative AI is, how do you create content based on the data sets that you know.”

The Future of Digital Banking

Nelson envisions the evolution of digital banking, emphasizing the importance of hybrid digital and personal advice models. He suggests that understanding client preferences and offering tailored digital experiences are key to fostering better relationships.

“And those relationships don’t have to be human. They can be digital. I think the better the products we’ll be able to offer and the better we’ll tailor our digital experience to client expectations.”

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