A graduate of the University of Nürnberg (1992 to 1998) and the University of Georgia (1996 to 1997), Stefan Kimmel’s distinguished career has included roles at some of the most prestigious consultancy companies in the world. Gaining far-reaching expertise on the subject of digital technology at BCG, Oliver Wyman, IBM and PwC, his expansive knowledge on the topic makes him well-placed to personally lead digital transformation efforts at the Commercial Bank of Dubai (CBD).
Joining the company in February 2020, on the eve of the global coronavirus lockdown, Kimmel says that the pandemic was a “curveball” at the start of his tenure to say the least. “I hadn’t even had the chance to meet all of my staff before everything was suddenly via Microsoft Teams or Zoom,” he recalls. Kimmel recognised CBD as a great opportunity for putting the theory he’d learned into practice: “After many years of telling clients what to do, I figured I wanted to get my hands dirty. Of course, it’s far more challenging but it's also a lot more rewarding.” It was the bank’s proud history, trajectory and outstanding track record of consistent revenue growth and profitability that captured his attention, as well as its promising commitment to digital transformation. The latter, he explains, is a direct result of CEO Bernd van Linder’s clear and committed long-term strategy.
Part of the new vanguard of ‘next-gen’ COOs, those who maintain a tech-focused outlook and holistic (non-siloed) team structures, Kimmel combines this with his outsider experience gained from working as a consultant. Having gained a solid understanding of what good performance means in a banking context, he is determined to achieve nothing short of the finest results for a bank in the Middle East. When considering how these outcomes will be achieved at CBD, Kimmel emphasises that technological advances will be crucial, although not, perhaps, in the way that many people think. “There's always a lot of talk about everything that’s going on in the market. However, I'd say, in recent years, technology has been far more ‘evolutionary’ than ‘disruptive’,” that is to say: it has been optimising the status quo rather than creating new paradigms entirely.
Part of the reason for this lies in banking’s status as a highly regulated industry, but the other is a direct result of a core technology: cloud. “If you look at the big platform providers - Google, Amazon, Microsoft, etc - the number of capabilities they've integrated into their cloud platforms is mind-boggling,” continues Kimmel. “Regardless of whether it was AI (artificial intelligence), DevOps, or any other cutting-edge technology, it would have previously taken large investments spread over several years to develop. Now, everything is an API (application programming interface) and you can just plug it in; you're not stuck with a 10-year-old infrastructure, you can literally just switch one API for another.”