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The new investment banking super-stars happen to work in IT

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The chances are you may not have heard of most of the people at the top of the tree in investment banking technology and if they spoke in any detail about the specifics of their jobs you’d be overwhelmed by technical terms and slip into a jargon-induced coma.

And yet, while investment banks pull back from hiring senior bankers, there’s a quiet battle for talent among the chief information officer and chief technology officer ranks.

“There’s been a huge swell in interest in what we do over the past year or so, not just among other technologists, but people inside and outside of the business,” says one investment banking CIO not authorised to speak to the media. “It’s a bit strange, to be honest.”

This is not a huge surprise when you consider the size of investment banks’ technology teams. Recent statements from Goldman Sachs’ CEO Lloyd Blankfein that the bank was a “technology firm” combined with the fact that JPMorgan’s IT headcount has swelled to over 30,000 people, shows how important it is to have the right people at the top. Investment banks are under pressure to remain cutting edge with their technology, whilst struggling against the tide of talent going towards Silicon Valley and tech start-ups, and so have had to go the extra mile to engage with fintech talent through alternative methods like incubator funds and open source technology.

Moves at the top in technology have, in recent weeks, largely involved Deutsche Bank, which has focused more on regulatory compliance than innovation.

Deutsche Bank has been shaking up its senior technology team since Kim Hammonds joined as global CIO and global co-head of technology and operations in November last year. Another Goldman veteran, Mike Grimaldi, also signed up to Deutsche as CIO of corporate banking and securities and global transaction banking in September.

It’s not just Deutsche Bank where changes are afoot among senior technologists, however. John Smith has been recently drafted in as head of trading technology at RBS, joining from Citi where he was head of equities technology. Michael Urciuoli has shifted across from head of capital markets tech at JPMorgan to CIO of its asset management division and the bank also hired Abhijit Bose as head of digital data science from American Express in April. Meanwhile, Sumeet Chabria was promoted to CIO of global banking and markets technology at HSBC in May.

“There are a lot of opportunities for senior technologists in investment banking currently, but it’s not reached war for talent proportions yet,” says Paul Bennie, managing director of IT in finance headhunters Bennie MacLean. “We’re still working with a couple of CIO level candidates who are top notch, but have been out of work for over six months.”

Committing to a senior-level technology hire is not something the banks will take lightly. While there’s been much written about the packages on offer to front office investment bankers, it’s worth noting that divisional CIOs in the industry can bring in total compensation of over £1m, according to Bennie.

“The fact is that the number of senior level technology moves in recent months is greater than we’ve seen in over five years,” he adds. “Banks are fishing from small pool when it comes to CIO candidates, so any movement at the top will inevitably create opportunities for others to take their place.”

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