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Banks eyeing foreign staffers as workforce demands outpace supply

Bino

Compliance and technology are the two hottest areas on Wall Street, and it’s not even close. Unfortunately for big banks, their dire need for experienced talent is being met by a rather paltry supply. U.S. firms are now employing two options to fill the gaps: overpaying for local talent and increasing their reliance on foreign workers.

In compliance, many full-time employees are taking home north of $200,000 a year, with opportunities on both the buy and sell-side. Some banks are just “throwing money” at experienced middle office employees, according to one lawyer. The landscape isn’t quite as lush for IT specialists, but demand is strong and pay is rising quickly.

But, rather than solely playing the overly expensive game of musical chairs, banks are often looking overseas to fill their empty seats. The number of requests for H-1B visas by U.S. banks is skyrocketing.

Requests submitted by Bank of America nearly doubled from 2010 to 2013 – from 851 to 1,378, according to Financial News. H-1B requests, typically for workers in countries like India and China, increased by 45% at J.P. Morgan during the same period. Goldman Sachs requested 1,136 H-1B visas last year, up 19% from 2010, according to the report.

Banks are looking for a range of talent from H-1Bs, but many are developers and people who work on the technology side of compliance. The problem, experts tell Financial News, is that banks aren’t being granted enough H-1Bs to cover their needs. So the pricey war for local talent should still continue.

One strategy being employed by banks, at least on the compliance end, is to poach workers from the public sector. The Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control has seen almost a dozen of its 200 staffers poached by big banks over the last year. Other agencies that don’t have the budgets of big banks are feeling a similar pain.

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