Jacob Sorensen, Chief Information Officer at Bank of the West — a financial organization that is looked upon as a vanguard in terms of innovation and digital transformation — sits down with BigIDeas on the Go to chat about digital transformation in financial services and how the pandemic has accelerated the need for smarter and faster technologies in the data space.

An “Ancient Industry”

After 20 years in the fintech industry, Sorensen has seen his fair share of digital transformation efforts. “For financial services — and certainly banking — this is an ancient industry,” says Sorensen. “You’re probably not in business today if you didn’t start with digital transformation over a decade ago.”

In Sorensen’s view, two topics have remained important over the years: trust and risk. “Today, it’s not just about whether you’re protecting financial assets. Equally important is protecting personal information and identity.”

The Acceleration of Digital Transformation in Finance

Even as digital transformation has ramped up over the past few years, “the slope of that curve has increased even more” due to Covid-19, says Sorensen.

At Bank of the West, “we’re really seeing the acceleration. We saw our digital transformation accelerate about three years in the first six months of the pandemic. And with that, all the normal threat factors have accelerated as well. At every level of the organization, we’re talking about risks — and we’re talking about how to mitigate them.”

The Value of Knowing Your Data

While the security aspect is “paramount,” says Sorensen, “you also have to understand what you’re trying to secure and where those vital assets are. Not every piece of information is created equal. We’re seeing phishing way up — certainly in the case of fraud with the acceleration of digital payments, so really understanding our data is key.

“We’re looking at some AI and ML techniques to effectively discover and create a better inventory of sensitive data across our data landscape.”

Sitting in the heart of Silicon Valley, Sorensen believes that “smarter and faster AI is towards the top of our agenda when it comes to leveraging these types of practices beyond the conventional use cases.”

Check out the podcast to hear more about how Sorensen sees the future of new technologies in fintech — and what he thinks is the single most important thing for aspiring CIOs going into the field.