Growing up in western Nebraska, Joe Castinado, the son and grandson of migrant farm workers from Mexico, worked in feedlots and helped in the bean and sugar beet fields. His family valued hard work and education.
Hard work and education led Castinado to another field: technology. He is a technology executive in merchant services at the Bank of America in Denver.
And he has another box on his resume: inventor. Castinado has received 109 patents on ideas related to banking services and has filed applications for more than 200.
In 2021, Bank of America was granted 512 patents, a record for the company and up 16% from 2020. They include new developments in artificial intelligence, data analytics and payments.
Russell Kendall, Castinado’s manager, said in an email that the advancements in technology pursued by Bank of America employees give the company “extraordinary opportunities to make financial services more innovative, seamless and convenient.”
Bank of America believes innovation isn’t just reserved for a select group of people, but is everybody’s responsibility, said Kendall, who has been granted more than 20 patents.
“We think this approach encourages ideas to emerge organically and in direct response to a client need or challenge,” Kendall said.
That approach appeals to Castinado. He said some of the best ideas are born at the end of meetings when people are talking and bouncing ideas off each other.
“When I come up with an idea a lot of times it’s on the back of an envelope,” Castinado said. “The best success I’ve had is through collaboration.”
He said most of his patents include co-authors. His inventions largely focus on innovations in how payments are made and transferred. Castinado said a lot of his inspiration comes from looking at everyday problems “that we think somebody has already solved.”
Castinado has proposed seeking a patent for a payment method he pondered while waiting in the drive-thru of a coffee shop during the height of the coronavirus pandemic.
“I thought, ‘I’m handing my credit card to somebody who just had their hands on somebody else’s credit card,’ ” Castinado. “I’m not a germaphobe, but I just thought there has to be a better way to expand how you use contactless payment.”
He started thinking about using a mobile, near frequency communication device that would link with the sales register in the business and automatically make the payment.
“Now you’re communicating back and forth without ever having to take out your credit card,” Castinado.
The bank is looking at applying for a patent for the process.
Castinado said it’s exciting for him to help people apply for their first patent. The inventions are the intellectual property of the bank, but the individual’s name is registered with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
Employees receive wooden plaques with a diagram of the patent. Castinado hung several of his plaques on a wall at his home in Northglenn.
“But my son took over that room,” Castinado said. “He refurbished it to make it his bedroom, so I’ve got stacks of these plaques that are waiting for a new home.”
Castinado has worked at Bank of America since a consulting job he took there in 2008 turned into a full-time position. He had worked for a number of companies, large and small, in the U.S. and other countries, and had his own technology consulting business. Castinado wasn’t looking for a permanent gig, but he liked the culture of the company, which is headquartered in Charlotte, N.C.
What has been a 32-year career for the 53-year-old Castinado had its genesis when two close school friends in Nebraska declared they wanted to be system analysts. “I had no idea what that meant, but I said, ‘Yeah, OK, if that’s what they’re going to do that’s what I’m going to do.’”
He was heeding advice his father had given him. “I remember him saying if there are people you admire, see what they’re doing and do what they’re doing.”
Castinado also observed his father and his entrepreneurial spirit. While his family lived in Mitchell, Neb., his parents owned a restaurant and a Mexican movie theater. His father did work helping other migrants become U.S. citizens.
Castinado went on to college and earned a degree in computer information systems. He worked in the telecommunications industry and branched out to logistics and financial services. Castinado said he embraced the focus on innovation at Bank of America.
“My innovative curiosity and my thrive to work hard, my cultural upbringing and the values that were instilled early on in my life, just really melded” with the job, he said.