By Michael Bradley
Special to Delaware Business Times
A small business owner looking for a loan heads to the JPMorgan Chase website, and after a few clicks, has an application in progress to get the capital he or she needs. It’s quick. It’s simple.
As JPMorgan pivots away from older, more conventional means of conducting business, it requires substantial technological innovation and support. Despite shrinking its employee base worldwide by as much as 5,000 people, JPMorgan plans to add 1,800 workers in the state — with about 360 hired already — as it expands its financial technology (FinTech) resources and creates platforms that serve its customers more quickly, efficiently and securely. It is also making $200 million in capital investments to outfit sites for the growing workforce and to train those who come aboard.
“We have been expanding in Delaware over the last 20 years,” says Mike Zbranak, JPMorgan Chase’s chief information officer. “In the last couple years, it has accelerated, and we’re going to keep looking to expand over the next few years.
“We’re growing in our digital and mobile areas, big data, analytics, data warehousing for our consumer banking and asset management divisions.”
It’s part of JPMorgan’s overall strategy of increasing its expertise in online and mobile applications, by forging alliances with small companies on FinTech’s cutting edge and by beefing up its own presence in the field through hiring skilled workers at several sites throughout the state, most notably the Delaware Technical Center (DTC) in suburban Wilmington, on the grounds of the old AstraZeneca complex JPMorgan purchased last year for $44 million. There are also sites in Newark (one near Christiana Hospital and another near Iron Hill) and in Wilmington. The benefits will be substantial for many constituencies. JPMorgan becomes more agile by bringing its products to the market along updated platforms, he said. Training centers, like ZipCode Wilmington, will see their rosters swell with people learning to write code and gain access to high-paying jobs.
Meanwhile, state officials say, Delaware will gain tax revenue and speed its progress toward becoming a tech hub.
“The whole FinTech area is huge, and this shows that JPMorgan feels confidence in the Delaware workforce to fill the jobs,” says Bernice Whaley, head of the Delaware Economic Development Office. “It also shows what Delaware is doing in the technology field.”
According to Zbranak, the DTC, which opened last fall, is key to the entire process, for a variety of reasons. JPMorgan had to revamp the entire facility, creating construction jobs. The philosophy behind the rebuild was to create a work environment that fostered collaboration and creativity. Instead of offices and cubicles, the DTC features an open footprint that encourages workers to discuss what they are doing and therefore build a synergy that leads to greater productivity.
It is modeled after the Silicon Valley spaces at places like Google and Apple, and Zbranak thinks it will be a great recruiting tool for young talent not interested in conventional workplace concepts.
“That’s how people in college work,” Zbranak says. “When they come in to the DTC, it looks very much like what they are used to. It’s what they envisioned, and it’s a great draw.”
Zbranak is originally from New York and moved to Delaware in 1994, when JPMorgan employed about 300 tech people in one building in the state. There are now 2,700 here, spread out over a few different sites, with 2,000 in the DTC.
“Financial systems need to be leading edge,” Zbranak says. “We have great people and great partnerships with FinTech companies that we use to drive innovation and stay ahead of the game. We can also draw talent from them.”
JPMorgan’s tech initiative wouldn’t have been possible without a strong cooperative relationship with the state. Delaware is providing $13.5 million over three years in direct and indirect assistance to help with construction and training. It’s part of Gov. Jack Markell’s attempt to attract new business to the state and enhance the presence of employers already here. It has also worked with SEPTA through the Delaware Transit Corporation to provide $1 million in “enhanced regional transportation options.”
“Companies today have more options than ever before when selecting where to locate operations,” Markell said in a statement. “Given those choices, it’s exciting that JPMorgan Chase selected Delaware for its Technology Center, which promises more high quality, good paying jobs for our citizens, including in fast-growing fields like IT and cybersecurity. JPMC’s investment is one example of how Delaware, with our top quality workforce and fastest broadband speeds in the country, is well-positioned to attract companies in a fast-changing economy that is seeing significant growth in the need for technology-related jobs.”
Training is a huge part of the equation, and that’s where the Delaware Tech Hire initiative and enterprises like ZipCode Wilmington come in. They have been able to provide the types of workers JPMorgan needs and do it with Delaware residents, according to Zbranak.
“We’re trying to make sure as many Delawareans as possible who are looking to get into this field have the opportunity to get these jobs,” Whaley says. “JPMorgan loves that there is a local component to this.”
Thanks to its close relationship with the University of Delaware, through which many students are able to take part in internships with the company, JPMorgan is able to recruit tech talent from among graduates. Executives also lecture and teach at the school, and last October, JPMorgan rededicated the Innovation Center at UD.