Wall Street banks are increasingly competing with Silicon Valley start-ups and tech giants like Google, Amazon, and Facebook for top talent.
JPMorgan Chase, for one, says it's having no struggle at all when it comes to hiring engineers and developers to build out its vast digital ambitions.
At a financial conference Tuesday, Gordon Smith, co-president and consumer banking chief at JPMorgan, said the bank has "honestly had no problems attracting that talent at all. It's actually been very exciting."
He noted that the bank had hardly any mobile or digital developers four years ago in Manhattan, but now has roughly 1,500 — mainly working out of the firm's glistening tech hub in Hudson Yards.
Anecdotally, Smith said that a number of the developers he's spoken with have left careers developing video games to join JPMorgan.
How is the bank luring away techies from sexy jobs working on hit games like Fortnite to work on mobile-banking products?
"It's actually been very easy," Smith told Erika Najarian, an equity-research head at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, at the conference.
While state-of-the art tech offices — in addition to Hudson Yards, the firm in September announced a new fintech office in Palo Alto to house 1,000 employees — likely help, the scale of JPMorgan's opportunity is what Smith highlighted. Here's the exchange:
Smith: I was talking to some of our developers, and I asked them — I often do — 'Where'd you come from?' And they come from the gaming industry, not the gambling industry, the gaming industry.
Najarian: Fortnite, yes.
Smith: Yes. And I said what attracted you to JP Morgan Chase from gaming? They said, "Well it's so exciting. When we do something with JPMorgan, we can hit thirty, forty, fifty million customers." And there's a little bit bragging rights when you're talking to your friends and you can say you know, "Well I've worked on this component of the mobile experience." So we've had great success at attracting talent and retaining them.
That's a similar pitch to what Bank of America uses in hiring tech talent for its consumer bank.
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JPMorgan, which earlier this year told Business Insider it has a $10.8 billion tech budget and 50,000 technologists on its payroll, courts comparisons to Amazon and has gone all in on a bet that a "Digital Everywhere" strategy will help win the future of banking.
The talent needed to build that vision doesn't come cheap. Smith said the company is increasingly trimming the number of call-center jobs it has in the $30,000-a-year range and instead adding "digital designers, software programmers, software engineers, artificial intelligence PhDs" at the $100,000 to $150,000 range.
In Smith's view, the former expense is simply providing maintenance of an existing customer service, while the latter is a bet on the future revenue growth — such as opening and maintaining an API store, building tools to gamify the process of improving customer credit scores, or launching a free stock-trading platform and an all-digital bank for millennials.
"When I'm moving expense into software developers, AI engineers and so on, they're all building for the future. They're all accelerating the medium to long-term growth of the company," Smith said.