Are Wall Street Banks Turning Their Back on Tech Talent (Again)?

Before Amazon pulled out of its deal to make New York City home to its second headquarters, there were murmurs over whether investment banks could compete locally against tech giants in the recruiting war over engineers and developers. It appears that may not have really mattered anyway, at least in the short-term. The number of tech-related job openings at investment banks based in New York has plummeted over the last half-year.

Back in early November, we looked at the number of tech and engineering openings housed in New York at the five big U.S. investment banks. A second look this week shows dramatic decreases across the board. As you can see in the chart below, tech-related job vacancies at J.P. Morgan are down by 55 percent in New York compared to November. At Morgan Stanley and Citi, there are well less than half as many openings today as opposed to last fall. All five big U.S. banks have seen a decrease in local technology jobs, with Goldman Sachs the only firm showing a single-digit percentage drop.

Of course, the “offshoring” of back-office jobs to cheaper cities is nothing new, but there was a fervor over local tech recruiting just five months ago. Plus, any plans to move more jobs away from New York City would have likely been anticipated back in November. Bank CEOs have been beating the drum over the need to prioritize tech hiring and to compete with the likes of Google and Facebook, which have stuck by plans to increase their footprint in New York.

J.P. Morgan opened tech-centric offices in Hudson Yards and Brooklyn in recent years. Goldman Sachs, JPM, Citi and Bank of America now have offices just across the river in Jersey City where they keep much of their tech staff. But the numbers are down across the board there, too. In fact, they’re even worse. In November, J.P. Morgan had 175 tech openings in Jersey City. That number shrunk to 98 this week. Goldman Sachs showed 69 vacancies; it now has just 24.

There were “a lot of technology openings at the end of last year and beginning of this year. However, it seems things have shifted,” said Lisa Mogilner, a senior recruiter at Wall Street headhunter Clear Point Group. Banks have seemingly deprioritized more traditional engineering roles in New York and New Jersey to focus on niche positions that require an engineering background but aren’t housed in the technology division, including hybrid roles in risk, valuations and securities, she said. Indeed, Goldman has more than a dozen current quant engineer and developer openings in New York that are classified as securities positions.

Another explanation could be the economy, along with pessimistic analyst projections for Wall Street revenues in the first quarter. Job openings fell by 500,000 in the U.S. in February to the lowest level in nearly a year, according to yesterday’s Labor Department report. A second New York headhunter said banks are “showing more patience” in high-cost areas like New York for non-revenue generating roles following a turbulent end of the year and a murky view for 2019.

Either way, U.S. banks have slammed on the brakes when it comes to hiring plans within their tech divisions. Hopefully it’s just temporary, though seasonality can’t be to blame. Job openings at investment banks tend to spike in April following bonus season, particularly in tech. That’s certainly not the case this year.

This article was originally published in eFinancialCareers.