When he worked with IBM, Jig Patel was assigned to a difficult client project that required him to consolidate business processes across three
locations: the United States, the United
Kingdom, and India. Patel developed new
processes and suggested that business executives conduct a roadshow to present the
new processes to company personnel.
In meeting after meeting, they heard
from employees about the things that were
wrong with the old processes. In response,
they fine tuned their recommendations.
“Eventually, the business executives real-
ized that it wasn’t the process that needed
to change; it was them (theprocess stake-
holders),” he said. “The communication
channels were broken.”
Patel, who was recently appointed chief
information officer at UMB Financial
Corporation, a large Missouri-based bank,
has built a career on traversing global cul-
ture to find relationships between unrelat-
Born in Anand, Gujarat, Patel immigrated to the United States when he was three.
His formative years were spent in Houston,
Texas, and Edison, New Jersey. From there,
he headed to the University of Tennessee
for his Bachelors and Masters degree in
Chemistry & Biology and business, respectively.
It might be an odd combination for some
but to Patel, that combination was a natural progression. He had always loved science because it helped him understand his
surroundings. “To be successful in business,
I needed to fine tune my analytic thinking
skills through science,” he said.
Full-time work through college — first in
the Computer Sciences lab at his university and, subsequently, as a business development executive at Motorola — provided
him with the ground experience of business. In recent years, he has added another
degree — a Masters in accounting from
Northwestern University’s Kellogg School
of Management — to his roster.
“It (thedegree) helps me with a rounded
perspective (of business, technology, and
finance) as a business technologist,” he said.
The experiences of growing up and work-
ing in different regions combined with a
nine-year stint with IBM during which he
flew all over the world has provided Patel
with a rich canvas for learning. “I learned
over a period of time how
to truly listen to cus-
tomers, to truly under-
stand who my audience
was on a global scale,” the
43 year old said.
It has also made him
appreciate the finer
aspects of doing business
across regions and cultures.
As an example, he said
business is relationship-based in the Midwest.
“Business decisions are
made in a more calculated
manner here (in the
Midwest) as compared to
the East Coast, which has
a fast-paced approach,” he
Expanding on that thought, he said that
running a business in the Midwest was
similar to running a business in India: “My
grandfather was a whole-
sale merchant for tea in
Anand (Gujarat) and his
business was entirely
based on relationships he
cultivated with cus-
tomers, suppliers, and
middlemen in the
But, human relation-
ships are increasingly giv-
ing way to digital interac-
tions in the modern
world. Technology is rein-
venting entire industries.
The financial services
industry is not exempt
from this disruption.
According to a report by
Goldman Sachs, a bank
and equity research firm,
technology-based startups could take away
as much as $11 billion worth of business
from traditional banks. For example,
lending Club, an online platform that con-
nects lenders with buyers, has cultivated
new markets and customers.
Does this mean that human employees
will become redundant in the financial
Not so, said Patel.
“Whether it is data or software, all of
them need some level of human interaction
to make sense,” said the 15-year veteran of
technology. As an example, he pointed to
UMB’s processes, which have been streamlined by technology but are layered with
interactions between customers and bank
Even in case of technology-based lending
platforms such as lending Club, Patel said
they had human-powered process groups
to evaluate and assess loans.
The human-machine interface is also
why he is enthusiastic about India’s financial services industry. “The changes (inthe
financial services industry) there are dramatic,” he said.
But, those changes need to be tempered
with increased regulation and government
taxation to avoid scams and earn revenues,
In an era of increasing digital hacks and
privacy invasions, he wants to focus on
cybersecurity at UMB Financial. “From the
day I walked in to the day that I leave,
cybersecurity was and will always be my
top priority,” he said.
As he puts it, his firm is a steward of customer data and finances and, consequently,
responsible for its security. “In today’s global business scenario, it is difficult to stop
hackers unless you have hyper vigilant and
preventative monitors in place,” he said.
A key aspect of this might be the launch
of a centralized information technology
service provider across UMB. In an earlier
intervie w with The Wall Street Journal, he
had outlined his vision as one that consists
of ‘organizing and rearranging IT service to
be the most effective family of our business.’
rakesh sharma tracks
Jig Patel’s climb to chief
information officer at
While Jig Patel’s story may seem like a dream immigrant story, it has not come without its share of sacrifices. He kept up a punishing 250 plus days of travel schedule each year during his IBM stint. Time away did
not leave him with much time at home. But, he said that job was part of a career
plan he had sketched out with his wife earlier.
The pace slowed down considerably in the last year when he took up another job
with Epiq systems in Kansas. This allowed him to spend more time at home with
his 14-year-old daughter and he plans to introduce her to India next year.
Patel credits his Indian heritage and its values of discipline, precision, and hard
work for helping him pull through tough times. “The way my parents raised us
helped me excel,” he said. “The influx of Indian immigrants in the last 20 years has
also reshaped America’s cultural landscape.”
Even as we spoke, Patel was making plans to watch a show featuring Indian-
American comedian Aziz Ansari that evening in Kansas City.
“I recently came across an interesting statistic: India graduates 300,000 engineers each year as compared to the 60,000 to 80,000 that graduate each year here
in America,” he said. “I say, let’s keep it up.”
At the intersection of business, technology and finance
Dreams and sacrifices
September 25, 2015