Celebrating Latino Leaders: Jorge Luis Jimenez

"There is still so much possibility and so much opportunity in this country. You can have your voice be heard - now more than ever before - and really let that voice blossom. We need more leaders to keep pushing that collective voice, to keep the momentum going.”

"There is still so much possibility and so much opportunity in this country. You can have your voice be heard - now more than ever before - and really let that voice blossom. We need more leaders to keep pushing that collective voice, to keep the momentum going.”

Jorge Luis Jimenez

Associate Relationship Manager and Vice President of Business Banking, First Niagara

Hometown: Bridgeport, CT

Dream big and set goals. It’s a mantra for Jorge Luis Jimenez, passed down from his father, and it’s the reason he – at 29 – is one of the youngest associate relationship managers at First Niagara Bank, providing businesses with annual revenues of $2 to $25 million with loan, deposit, treasury management and other financial solutions. Jorge specializes in treasury management, with knowledge of a variety of merchant banking and transactional needs.

“I’ve watched the really successful people in my industry and paid attention to what they were doing. I always dream big, and I always listen and ask a lot of questions.”

He has also worked very hard to get where he is. At the age of 15, while attending Notre Dame High School, he worked as a barista at Starbucks - becoming a shift supervisor after only a couple of years. The manager at the RadioShack a few doors down noticed Jorge’s work ethic and asked him if he was interested in sales.

“I said, ‘I have no clue about sales, but I’ll try it.’ And I learned quickly that if I explain to the customer the benefits of a product and if it makes sense for the customer to buy the product, then I’d be doing the right thing for the customer. I did really well, and I started making a lot of money.”

His father made sure that Jorge’s income was put to good use, invested in a bank until the time came for Jorge to buy a house.

“My dad took me to the bank every Friday to deposit my paycheck. He always impressed upon me that capital is important, and that I should buy a house.”

The manager at that People’s Bank branch also took notice of Jorge, and upon moving to Washington Mutual, asked him if he ever thought about being a banker. Jorge had just entered the pre-med program at University of New Haven (UNH).

“I actually went to college to be a doctor, because my grandfather was a very famous doctor in South America and my father thought I should be one too. But I realized pre-med was not for me, so I switched to a double-major in business and accounting.”

Jorge would work weekdays at the bank from 8:30 – 4:00 in Norwalk and then drive straight to UNH in West Haven for evening classes. He took classes on Saturdays as well, and was able to graduate early. By then, he had also become a business banking specialist and readily embraced the teaching aspect of the work, explaining finance and investments to customers, guiding them to the right choice for them.

And, Jorge fulfilled his father’s expectations when he bought his first house at the age of 22.

“Dad always told me to buy a multi-family house, in order to use it as an investment. I think he had all these visions and plans that he never had the chance to do, and so I think he encouraged me to do those things.”

Mentors and Life Lessons

Jorge’s mother and father were both born in Ecuador and were both the first of their families to immigrate to the U.S. in the mid-1980s. Born in 1987 in Queens, NY, Jorge was three when his parents moved their small family to Bridgeport. His father got a job as a machinist for Dupont, from which he will retire in 2016. Jorge’s mother was a Pre-K and kindergarten teacher at Holy Family School in Fairfield until its closing in 2010.

The move to Bridgeport marked the start of helping family members who were also interested in coming to the U.S. Jorge’s parents provided shelter and support as more and more aunts, uncles and cousins came to establish new and prosperous lives in Connecticut.

“My parents are my mentors; my inspiration to give back to my community started with them. I saw how they took in everybody. And it didn’t matter who they were, they were willing to help.”

Home was like a college dorm, Jorge says laughing. Every “semester” there was a group of family members ready to move into their own house and another family coming in from Ecuador, ready to fill the vacancy.

“I was an only child, but I always had cousins in the house with me as I was growing up. We had four bedrooms in that house and let me tell you, every one of them was utilized to the max!”

He was closest to his cousin Fernando Moreno-Rivas, who was a year and four days older and in constant competition with Jorge - in sports, cars and life achievements.

“We both went to Holy Family School, and then we were both accepted to Notre Dame. We were both involved in our church, always holding can and bottle drives to give back to the community. We both played soccer. We both excelled at math, but we both struggled in school at times because of the language barrier.”

After high school, Jorge went to UNH and Fernando joined the Army, climbing the ranks quickly to sergeant. Sadly, Fernando was killed in a car accident earlier this year, leaving a devastated family and community who described him as a ‘superhero without a cape.’

Making Moves for a Stronger Community

In November, Jorge received the Millennial Move Maker Award from the Greater New Haven Chamber of Commerce and its PULSE Young Professionals group. The award is given to individuals who are “making an outstanding difference in the professional and outside world.”

“A lot of the work I do, in and out of my occupation, is work with young professionals to help them grow and develop, give them the right tools, and what they need to do to get to the next level.”

He says that is what initially attracted him to The Community Foundation and the Progreso Latino Fund (PLF). He now serves on the Advisory Committee of PLF.

“PLF is kind of like my baby now, out of all the Boards and activities that I’m involved with. We’re really trying to encourage Latinos to be a driving force in the community. We have a great group right now.”

That “driving force” was on Jorge’s mind long before he came to PLF. While working at a Bank of America branch in East Haven in 2008, he realized just how much of the Latino community in that town was just getting established.

“We started working with some of the Latin American consulates, and when people would come in to renew passports and other documents, I was there to explain to them the benefits of opening a checking account and creating financial security for themselves.”

After two years, he left Bank of America to become a branch manager at Citizens Bank - the youngest to do so - all while just finishing up college.

“I had a passion for teaching; I had a passion for helping others. I made my staff stronger, teaching them everything: how to sell, provide good quality service. But I would also make them realize what they were doing for customers was important – being helpful while still making money.”

That passion still exists, and Jorge says he is always willing to help others: professionally, financially, or however he can. In addition to PLF, he is also on New Reach Inc.’s Board of Directors and is director of public relations and social media for PULSE. He also reviews resumes on the side - for young professionals, friends and acquaintances.

“I’m always willing to help someone get to the next level. There is still so much possibility and so much opportunity in this country. You can have your voice be heard - now more than ever before - and really let that voice blossom. We need more leaders to keep pushing that collective voice, to keep the momentum going.”