JPMorgan Plans Tech Hires in a Country Where It’s Hardly Known

(Bloomberg) -- JPMorgan Chase & Co. is beefing up its technology presence in Israel, joining other global financial firms seeking to benefit from the country’s large pool of fintech experts.

The largest U.S. lender plans to employ as many as 200 engineers at its Herzliya office in the next two years, after already doubling the number of developers to 90 over the past 12 months, Yoav Intrator, who heads technology operations in Israel, said in an interview.

The bank is hiring as it seeks to address two needs -- upgrading existing business lines such as its trading platform and payment clearing system, as well as incorporating new products developed by local entrepreneurs into its global operations. It also comes as firms such as BlackRock Inc., Citigroup Inc., and Toronto-Dominion Bank have built up Israeli offices in recent years, drawn by the country’s technological prowess.

“We analyze our labor and software engineering needs on a regular basis, so it was a very deliberate decision for us to be in Israel,” Larry Feinsmith, JPMorgan’s head of global technology strategy, said in a phone interview. “It’s competitive as the other banks, tech companies and startups are all there.”

Stiff Competition

Potential candidates could be attracted by the size of JPMorgan, which clears $5 trillion of payments every day, according to Intrator. It’s also setting up a division to engage some of Israel’s 6,000 startups that are developing technologies using blockchain and artificial intelligence.

Competition for staff will be stiff, and costly. Multinational firms such as Amazon.com Inc., Facebook Inc. and Intel Corp. employ 33,000 R&D workers here, at a time when there’s a shortage of 10,000 developers to meet the needs of the local tech sector, according to Startup Nation Central, a non-profit group that tracks the industry. The firms’ deep pockets have pushed salaries almost to American and European levels, with the average salary for developers with three to five years experience now about 336,000 shekels ($90,000) a year, according to Jobinfo, a popular local job search site.

“Israel is not about cost; it’s really about the quality,” Intrator said from the bank’s headquarters, which are sandwiched between Microsoft Corp. and a WeWork site. “What can we do in Israel that’s unique and really help the company in its digital strategy in the long term and not just the short term? That’s the primary driver.”

One obstacle to hiring is that JPMorgan and its competitors don’t have retail operations in Israel and aren’t widely known locally.

“This is a perception that we need to correct,” Intrator said. “Just by interviewing or meeting potential new hires, the process itself creates a lot of brand awareness. They’re surprised by how big a bank we are and the kind of impact we have for clients around the world.”

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