When Adaliz Gimenez found out she was named one of the Most Influential Women in Arizona by Arizona Business Magazine, she didn’t believe it. Seriously.
As a vice president and commercial banker for Bell Bank in Phoenix, Adaliz is trained to recognize and avoid scams – especially imposter scams – so she’s wary of atypical emails.
"I wondered if it was a phishing email, but it didn’t have a link,” Adaliz says, laughing. “As I started looking into it more, I realized how important the recognition was, and I was very excited. It is such an honor to be named one of the Most Influential Women in Arizona – especially alongside all of the impressive women included on that list.”
The recognition came after Adaliz and many others at Bell had been working countless hours for more than a month on the Small Business Administration's Paycheck Protection Program, which offers federally guaranteed loans to help businesses keep workers employed amid the pandemic and economic downturn.
As many banks scrambled to figure out how to help their customers, Bell did not hesitate and processed more than 1,300 loans the first week the program became available and over 3,200 as of mid-July, helping more than 70,000 people keep their jobs.
It was a Herculean – and at times exhausting – effort, but bankers like Adaliz didn’t worry about the long hours or number of loans they were processing – it was about helping businesses keep people employed, so they could take care of their families.
“It was an incredible team effort,” Adaliz recalls. “There were so many people working on that program – including team members from other departments who asked how they could help. Those support teams, who customers don’t often see, empower lenders to do great things every day. I really feel this recognition is for all of us.”
Finding Her Calling
Born and raised in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Adaliz became a mother at a young age. She remembers feeling lost and afraid she wouldn’t be able to accomplish any of her goals and dreams. Instead, motherhood motivated her to work harder than she ever had, and with the support of her family, she went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Puerto Rico.
After graduating, she was accepted into an 18-month intensive management training program with a bank from Spain, where she rotated through all areas of banking from teller to credit risk to business banking. That’s where she found her calling.
“I was drawn by the interaction with business owners and learning their stories,” Adaliz notes. “They’re the engine of the economy, turning a tiny idea into a big business opportunity. They employ so many people and make such a big impact in our economy and lives, and as a commercial banker, I get to help people accomplish their dreams. It might just be a loan, but it’s also someone’s dream come true, whether they’re starting a business or expanding and hiring more people. They’re such an important, valuable part of our community, and I wanted to be part of that.”
After earning an MBA from the University of Phoenix, Adaliz worked as a business banker and commercial lender for a well-known national bank before joining Bell in November of 2019.
“I had no idea it could be this good and I could be so proud of the company I work for,” Adaliz remarks. “It’s so beautiful and refreshing to work at a place I am incredibly proud of, where I believe so fully in the company I represent. When I first heard about Bell’s Pay It Forward program, I thought it was too good to be true.”
Making a Difference
In addition to Bell’s Pay It Forward program, which empowers employees to donate to causes they care about, Bell gives employees paid time to volunteer in their communities.
Adaliz likes to spend her volunteer time and Pay It Forward funds supporting and inspiring young women at risk of dropping out of school due to pregnancy or socioeconomic challenges.
“I remember being in their shoes and thinking it was the end of the world,” Adaliz notes. “It helps them to meet someone like them who was able to complete her education and build a successful career.”
Declaring she is better with words than figures and joking, “In Spanish I’m really smart,” Adaliz sees banking as more about building relationships than crunching numbers.
For me, it’s about communication and telling their story,” she affirms. “The relationship aspect is what I enjoy most – that, and making sure my clients’ loans are done right.”
Specializing in loans for doctors, dentists, lawyers, and anyone else “with letters in front of and behind their name,” Adaliz takes great satisfaction in driving around with her family and pointing out medical buildings she helped finance, so they could grow from a small practice into a thriving clinic.
“It shows my kids that their mom is not just going into an office to push papers, but what I do impacts the lives of so many people,” she comments. “The first time I walked into my kids’ renovated pediatrician’s office, in a beautiful building I helped finance, my child was so excited about the aquarium that he wasn’t even scared to see the doctor. That made me realize how import what we do is to so many people.”
Adaliz is the second Bell Bank employee to be named among the Most Influential Women in Arizona. Desirae Outcalt, also a vice president and commercial banker in Phoenix, received the honor in 2017.
Adaliz and her husband, Elam, live in Phoenix and have two children and a rescue dog.