Industry-first study from Evident shows leading European banks are doubling down on AI recruitment, but UK banks are struggling to compete with US rivals
JPMorgan Chase & Co. is looking to assert its AI dominance within the global banking industry, according to a new study of AI talent and hiring trends from AI benchmarking & intelligence platform Evident.
JPMorgan Chase & Co. hired twice as many AI-related jobs as any of its rivals between February to April 2023, advertising for 3,651 roles, compared to 1,754 roles advertised by Citigroup, 1,374 by Barclays and 1,268 by Deutsche Bank.
The 60 largest North American and European banks now employ around 46,000 people in AI development, data engineering and governance & ethics roles, with as many as 100,000 global banking roles involved in bringing AI to market. Interestingly, 40% of AI staff within these banks have started their current roles since January 2022.
Evident’s research shows that a number of European banks, including ING Groep, Barclays and NatWest Group, are stepping up their AI recruitment. In each case, AI-related hires represent over 30% of their open job descriptions, demonstrating the strategic significance of AI to each bank at a time when European banks are experiencing a growing AI gap with their North American rivals – as reported in the inaugural Evident AI Index back in January 2023.
Alexandra Mousavizadeh, Evident Co-Founder and CEO, said: “JPMorgan Chase is making huge investments in AI, but it’s not the only big bank stepping up its hiring efforts. There’s been a flurry of recruitment activity across the industry. AI is the one area of banking where people are being brought on in growing numbers, and our data shows that banks are competing ferociously to secure the best talent.”
Poaching is rife amongst the world’s biggest banks
According to Evident, banks are recruiting from a variety of sources to build their AI talent pipelines, with rival banks providing more than 22,000 of all employees recruited into AI-related roles, followed by IT consulting/tech firms (18,000) and universities (8,500).
Wells Fargo is the most active player when it comes to poaching AI talent, having sourced 5% of its AI staff from Bank of America alone. US banks have marginal net inflows of AI talent, partially at the expense of UK banks. However, most poaching is within markets rather than between them. Wells Fargo, RBC, BNP Paribas, and HSBC lead net inflows in their respective markets.
Is AI reinforcing existing banking power dynamics?
The Evident report identifies New York as the global centre for AI talent, as measured by overall employee numbers, followed by London, Toronto, Bengaluru and Paris. India has three cities in the top 10, as does the US, with India’s presence reflective of historic offshoring decisions that are now leading the banks to double down and recruit heavily into their existing locations.
However, different models of AI talent deployment are emerging, with a marked contrast between the US banks, which are recruiting globally in all of their key locations, and markets like Canada, France and the Netherlands, where AI talent is predominantly being recruited domestically.
Europe’s AI talent pool remains particularly fragmented, with Germany struggling to develop domestic AI centres. Neither Frankfurt nor Berlin features in the top 30 cities for AI talent, while Deutsche Bank, one of the leading AI recruiters, employs the majority of its AI staff outside of Germany, and is concentrating its AI recruitment efforts in other markets, particularly India.
According to Evident, these hiring trends suggest that AI is replicating traditional banking power structures. For example, the strong presence of US, European and Asian banks in London has historically made it difficult for UK banks to compete for talent. Whilst Barclays is currently hiring AI talent in similar numbers to its US counterparts, alumni from the UK’s foremost universities are more likely to end up working in AI-related fields at JPMorgan Chase & Co, Bank of America or Citigroup than any of the domestic banks.
Mousavizadeh added: “The UK’s strength as a global financial services powerhouse remains its weakness when it comes to supporting domestic banks’ AI hiring efforts. History is repeating itself, with AI reinforcing the global power dynamics we’ve seen in banking over the past few decades.”
Generative AI is not being referenced in banks’ recruitment efforts… nor is responsible AI…yet
Evident’s research shows that, despite the explosion of interest in generative AI triggered by the release of ChatGPT in November 2022, fewer than 2% of recent AI Development job descriptions advertised by the world’s biggest banks explicitly referenced Generative AI, Large Language Models (LLMs) or ChatGPT.
Evident Co-founder and COO Annabel Ayles said: “It’s encouraging to see the banks proceeding with caution around Generative AI rather than getting caught up in the ChatGPT noise. As they identify and test different use cases across their divisions, banks need people who truly understand the technology behind Generative AI models and how to embed it in products. It could take months or even years before these tools are put into production, so we don’t expect to see major hiring for related roles, but we do eventually expect an uptick in jobs such as prompt engineers, ML engineers and product developers.”
Evident also found little evidence that banks are increasing investment in responsible AI talent in light of the increased scrutiny being given to the risks of rolling out powerful AI systems. Between February 2022 and April 2023, just two banks explicitly recruited for responsible AI roles.
Ayles added: “Less encouraging is the apparent lack of focus on recruiting talent dedicated to ensuring the safe and responsible use of these powerful new technologies. With all industries likely to face more external scrutiny from policymakers and regulators around AI adoption, banks may be missing an opportunity to get ahead of the curve.”