Staffing fads in investment banks tend to go in waves. A few years ago, the zeitgeist was all about internal mobility or moving existing staff from one role to another. Today, it’s more about retraining. Alert to the fact that they already employ thousands of highly able staff, banks are choosing to upskill existing staff in new requirements rather than look for entirely different ones. (In a way, they’re taking a big page from tech firms such as Amazon, which have been trying to use upskilling in machine learning and other disciplines to overcome talent shortages.)
Daniel Pinto, co-president and chief operating officer of JPMorgan Chase and CEE of the Corporate & Investment Bank (CIB), underscored the new approach during the recent JPMorgan investor day. JPMorgan needs to embed machine learning and artificial intelligence into the CIB, Pinto said. To achieve this, he said the bank is upskilling existing staff… and not just on its development teams.
JPMorgan’s approach involves retraining both the “supply-side” of developers who create machine learning applications and the “demand-side” of business professionals who will use them, said Pinto. Retraining workers on both sides of the equation and automating JPMorgan’s infrastructure is a “massive priority,” he added.
This doesn’t mean that JPMorgan is averse to hiring high level A.I. talent if necessary. The bank is currently recruiting for 11 machine learning roles globally; as we reported last year, it’s assembling a machine learning team in San Mateo under ex-Googler Apoorv Saxena. Saxena’s team has already built a tool that will make it easier for JPMorgan’s A.I. models to ingest data in future.
Alongside high level A.I. specialists, however, JPMorgan envisions an army of A.I.-literate employees to help implement its new solutions. It’s not the only one. Bank of America’s chief operations and technology officer, Cathy Bessant, has started an internal university to retrain the 95,000 people in her group in how to code and design bots. Meanwhile, Citi has introduced a Python training course for its investment banking juniors, which has also been taken by Paco Ybarra, who heads its markets business. (In January, Citi said it had trained 1,600 front office staff to code in Python since 2017.) And Goldman Sachs uses something called the Securities Knowledge Exchange (SKE) to train its non-tech employees in coding skills.
JPMorgan’s big retraining push is already underway. The bank introduced mandatory training classes for juniors in investment banking and asset management in 2018, and began equipping coders with trading licenses last year.
Today’s statement from Pinto is a reminder that learning how to code isn’t necessarily that hard. Banks already have armies of super-bright, super-committed people. Why hire new ones when those you’ve got simply need an upgrade?
A modified version of this article originally appeared in eFinancialCareers.